For athletes and spectators, sporting events can deliver ecstasy and agony – sometimes mere minutes apart. However, for organizers and partners such as broadcasters, emotions may be less extreme – but the stakes may be even higher. If the logistics and execution of events watched by hundreds of millions of people worldwide fail, reputations and revenue may be hit hard, and organizers face an increasingly complex task to deliver a world-class experience across a range of channels, applications and user groups. Attendees today demand a seamless experience when navigating an event, spectators at home want the best possible viewing experience, sponsors need to maximize exposure of and value add to their brand, and broadcasters need to provide glitch-free coverage of an event.
Running a large-scale globally-recognized sporting event requires discipline and an ability to adapt rapidly – including ensuring 50+ functional teams including competition officials, volunteers, ticketing staff, drivers, security personnel and others are in the right place performing the right work at the right time. A couple of missing judges can delay or compromise a gymnastics or ice-skating event, for example. If the coordination and logistics teams rely on paper-based event layout drawings or static tables to undertake these tasks, they may find themselves unable to change schedules and assignments quickly – a circumstance that can soon descend into chaos. Furthermore, event organizers need to predict and plan for a range of scenarios that may impact the staging of an event – a priority that assumed even greater importance during the coronavirus pandemic. The high stakes and expectations of all parties involved in a sporting event makes the rich visualization and seamless integration of design plans for different functions across different teams essential to success, while enhanced cross-checking capability enables event organizers to identify potential issues before they escalate reconstruction and change costs.
Furthermore, large-scale sporting events – as do all events – need a coordinated security presence to keep athletes, spectators and other stakeholders safe. This requires careful planning based on a deep understanding of the venue configurations and the anticipated flow of people at any given time. Simulating the outdoor areas of a venue enables organizers to place security cameras in the most advantageous positions, implement measures to eliminate bottlenecks and react appropriately to predicted and rapidly changing scenarios. These and other operational adjustments can help prevent and reduce risk factors in real time. Combining simulation with 3D modelling to create panoramic views of event spaces also enables organizers to ensure each spectator enjoys a compelling viewing experience and plan venue layout including equipment positioning to a fine degree of detail, including size, placement, and angle.
Fan engagement is also crucial for sporting events to cut through in a highly contested content marketplace and digital innovation is key to success, particularly to win over those individuals unable to attend in person. A service that collects and filters hash tagged videos uploaded to a range of social network platforms, with the selected videos curated, checked, produced and broadcast online and at venues, enables fans to participate in and feel part of the experience.
Registration of and venue access of accredited visitors is another critical activity, touching on security, stakeholder experience and other important areas. A digital solution that simplifies identity and access control can minimize inventory issues by enabling card issue within seconds, while enabling organizers to create and manage distinct categories for media, VIPs, staff, athletes, coaches and other stakeholders. Such a solution can reduce waste while capturing data that organizers can use to enhance the experience for each visitor – for example, by providing up-to-date information about events and enabling them to avoid congestion. For organizers, this data can provide, through analysis, the insights needed to identify how operations can be improved, while visualization tools can help make the data relevant to fast, accurate decision-making. Furthermore, a solution that incorporates robust security measures can minimize the threat presented by counterfeit tickets and other fraudulent activities, while centralized access control management can help – in combination with embedded strategies and digital accreditation – manage event staff safely amid the pandemic.
Media coverage is also key to the success of the largest scale sporting events, lifting their profile and delivering information and insights to readers, listeners and viewers worldwide. However, traditional press conferences featuring spokespeople responding to questions from journalists present in the same room are increasingly being complemented by live streaming services that enable correspondents to listen and ask questions directly from any geographical location. However, digital press conferences only deliver the required experience if the quality of video and audio is high – minimizing the risk of a question or answer being misheard or misunderstood – and the service does not experience any interruptions that result in attendees missing important information. Furthermore, reliable on-demand video can enable journalists, spokespeople and communications teams to review press conference content to clarify and confirm information, while translations packaged into an original video stream, generating a new stream for each language which is then transcoded and made available on demand, expands the reach of events to journalists and ultimately audiences worldwide.
Reducing the number of manual activities involved in sports broadcasting is an important priority for organizers that want to control costs while improving speed and accuracy – and AI is key to success. For example, broadcast cameras at event grounds traditionally require a number of operators, which, with an AI-powered solution, can be cut to just one person to install the required devices and monitor the automated recording and livestreaming of an event.
A modern sporting experience now spans a wide range of social and digital channels that present opportunities to increase revenue and boost customer loyalty and engagement. However, delivering an elevated experience that amplifies rather than detracts from an event is no easy task. For example, traditional data transmission modes based on physical servers lack the security and speed to run web applications effectively, while regular networks do not provide the scalability and performance to distribute content quickly to users around the world. Alibaba Cloud’s global network comprises 2,800+ edge node server clusters across different regions, and hosts a highly scalable, high-performance Content Delivery Network (CDN) that enables the rapid distribution of sporting content to users worldwide, while a Global Application Acceleration solution further accelerates the network and applications to a speed 10X that of traditional networks. In addition, Elastic Compute Service servers integrate machine learning capabilities with X-Dragon architecture to deliver a 30% increase in queries-per-second and a 60% fall in latency.
Meanwhile, legacy development practices that plague some sporting organizations limit their ability to deliver new, interactive services to the market quickly – a severe constraint in the competitive, content-rich marketplace and an obstacle to the recruitment and retention of talented developers. Alibaba Cloud’s DevOps Solution helps unify development and operations to accelerate delivery of the latest interactive services to market, faster and – leveraging the resources and intelligence of the cloud – helps organizations manage their website and applications with ease, minimizing disruption even when there’s an influx of requests and traffic spikes. Traditional physical infrastructures do not enable sporting organizations to accommodate the demand and traffic peaks to digital services that occur during high profile events, unless they invest a considerable amount in supplementary capacity that remains unused beyond these comparatively brief periods.
Furthermore, a failure to secure data, systems and infrastructure can prove catastrophic during high profile events that attract a large volume and variety of attacks from malicious parties – the organization responsible for the event can experience severe reputational and financial damage. Alibaba Cloud has achieved high-level international certifications on data security, providing AntiDDoS and WAF (Web Application Firewall) solutions to safeguard web applications.
Alibaba Cloud Event Simulation Services also incorporates a range of features to help sporting organizations enhance collaboration, operate efficiently and identify and deal with issues early in event planning – including rich visualization to integrate design plans for different functions across different teams, improved cross-check efficiency, 3D modelling, the ability to make operational adjustments in real time and capture data for post-event analysis. Organizations can complement these capabilities with the Alibaba Cloud Fan Video Hub, that automatically collects, and filters content uploaded to a variety of social network platforms, using an organizer-specified hashtag to identify videos for the event in question, and the Digital Badge solution that streamlines the registration and access processes of accredited visitors to a sporting venue. Furthermore, Alibaba Cloud Press Conference on the Cloud – powered by the ApsaraVideo Live audio and video streaming service – uses live and on-demand streaming technologies to enable organizers to deliver virtual events, meaning journalists can attend press conferences without ever stepping into the room.
Alibaba Cloud is also a leader in using AI to enhance sporting event delivery – for example, the Sports Live+ service uses unattended cameras with AI-based algorithms to replace the traditional manual work of camera operators and reduce the cost of match broadcasting and combines with Alibaba Cloud Narrowband HD Transcoding and video enhancement capabilities to deliver video graphic packaging, retransmission push flow, content management, and big data analysis.
With Alibaba Cloud, sporting organizations can deliver large scale sporting events to global audiences without falling before the finish line.
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