Olympics committee to explore Wi-Fi LANs

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made no decision to ban the use of 802.11 Wi-Fi wireless LANs for use in future games because of security concerns, according to an IOC spokeswoman.

Emmanuelle Moreau, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based IOC, said Wi-Fi LANs could be used at the Olympics well before 2008 if performance and security concerns are satisfied. The next Olympics are the Summer Games of 2004, which will be held in Athens.

A news report earlier this week said that the IOC had decided not to use Wi-Fi until 2008 at the earliest because of concerns over security and performance. According to Moreau, the IOC never said that wireless LAN equipment wouldn't be used before that date, adding that wireless LANs could "fit our needs."

Jason Durrant, systems integration and testing director at SchlumbergerSema in New York, which holds the high-profile Olympics technology contract through 2008, said that while the company didn't use Wi-Fi technology at this month's Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the company intended to evaluate wireless LANs for use in future Olympics.

Considering the scattered locations of events during the Summer and Winter Olympics, wireless LANs could prove useful. Durrant said that in the case of Salt Lake City, SchlumbergerSema's first Olympic outing, the company decided to go with what it viewed as tried, proven and risk-free technology.

News stories during the past six months about security holes in the Wi-Fi standard have caused concern among the 140 companies that are members of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), a trade group in Mountain View, Calif., for companies that the fit Wi-Fi standard.

The stories focused not only on the inherent problems of Wi-Fi but also highlighted flawed deployments, such as holes in American Airlines wireless LAN installations at the San Jose and Denver airports and the highly publicized decision by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to temporarily ban the use of wireless LANs.

In a statement, the trade group said it was concerned about unsubstantiated reports indicating that Wi-Fi technology wouldn't be used at the Olympics through 2008.

"Spokespeople from both the International Olympic Committee and SchlumbergerSema, the IOC's technology partner, have indicated that this statement was never made. We see the Olympic games as a tremendous and positive unifying force in today's uncertain times, and WECA would like to do anything it can to support Olympic efforts around the world," the group said.

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