What does it take to host a global sporting event?

By    July 23, 2014

Every major sporting event provides the communications industry an opportunity to show off the latest equipment and timing systems at its stadiums and venues, and upgrade communications and surveillance infrastructure in host cities. While you are broadcasting to the world, you need precise timing, very low latency, and highly reliable systems to ensure flawless execution. The 2014 FIFA World Cup set some trends and gave us a glimpse of the infrastructure Brazil will have in place for the 2016 Summer Games.

Before we begin, we need to level set. Let’s remember 12 cities in Brazil hosted the World Cup, which required significant infrastructure developments across all cities, including seven new stadiums and five renovated stadiums. Maracanã in Rio de Janiero, the largest stadium in South America, holds 71,159 seats (the new San Francisco 49ers Stadium called Levis’s Stadium will have 68,500 seats, expandable to 75,000).  On top of this, Brazil still needs to finish Olympic venues and also some new airport terminals – minor details.

  • Live streaming: But amazingly throughout the tournament, football – yes, football – could be viewed on the streets. If you weren't lucky enough to be in the stadium, you joined thousands of your new best friends on the street to watch live streams of the matches. Many major international cities have adopted these mobile giant screen TVs, which frequently use microwave point-to-point backhaul to deliver live feeds.
  • Video surveillance: Given the crowds, local police forces implemented video surveillance in many areas to manage local security.  If you ever wonder how security shows up within 30 seconds of an incident, you now know why:  Host cities don’t want them to make headlines.  Cambium Networks installed a video surveillance network in Salvador, Bahia built specifically for the World Cup to ensure local security and safety. 
  • Stadium connectivity: Lastly, the stadium is the most challenging because you have to telecast a match to the world while ensuring spectators’ safety, so there must be a lot of video surveillance on site with very accurate time stamping. And let us not forget the fans that want to let the rest of us outside how much fun it was and how lucky they were to be in the stadium. There would have been various communications layers on site such as cellular, Wi-Fi and possibly small cells to handle the traffic being generated by over 70,000 fans with smartphones. Data offloading from cellular networks was definitely stress tested.

So as we look back on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, let us not forget what it takes to host such an event across 12 cities. And from a personal standpoint, that Spain needs to do some serious soul searching.  Parabéns aos brasileiros para hospedar uma Copa do Mundo FIFA tão espetacular!