GE set to throw Olympics power switch

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2008, 12:00am

General Electric (GE) - the main sponsor involved in the critical categories of power, lighting, water treatment, transport, security and health care for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games - has installed and tested its infrastructure products and is now focusing on the expectations of partners' service requirements when the Games begin.

The company has made a US$200million investment as it contributes to more than 350 projects in and around the capital, including all 37 official Olympic venues, 168 commercial buildings, roads, fire detection and security systems in the underground railway and at Beijing Capital International Airport.

Working with the organising committee and commercial partners, GE is providing a wide range of solutions integral to the success of the Games.

Projects include: supplying hospitals with ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging equipment to help doctors treat athletes; filtration systems for clean drinking water and rainwater recycling at the Beijing National Stadium; new luggage transport and security scan systems at the airport; solar-powered lighting at the Fengtai Softball Field; water processing technology to recycle water for Olympic Green landscaping; and high-efficiency energy units at the Jing Hui Garden media hotel and for the Olympic central area.

Operating at its first Olympics and taking direction from the International Olympic Committee, the company has also built a wind farm featuring 120 wind turbines which will create 200 megawatts of power for the Olympic venues.

GE's Olympic partnership was launched in January 2005 and continues through the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The typical total cost of infrastructure for an Olympic Games is estimated at US$10billion.

As Beijing seeks to become a modern and environmentally conscious metropolis, hosting the largest and most technologically advanced Games, the infrastructure will cost closer to US$40billion.

Jim Fisher - president, Beijing 2008 Olympics solutions general GE and president and chief executive, Greater China consumer and industrial - said the company had spent three years putting together the ideal launch pad for involvement in major events such as the Shanghai Expo and Guangzhou Asian Games, both in 2010, and in Macau, where casino construction was bringing in major gambling revenue.

'From the start there has been a lot of communication between us and customers. There was no book on how to do this and, as all the venues are owned privately, we had to find who they were and then educate them on what we could offer,' said Mr Fisher, who joined GE in 1974 and moved to China from the United States six years ago.

'We established a team of 75 staff in our Olympic office with talent from all our business sectors. The focus was on sales, which we divided into five teams, one each for stadiums, commercial buildings, transport, energy and water, and one to work directly with the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

'We also set up teams to deal with proposals, projects and products. Ninety per cent of the team are Beijing Chinese and we have technical expertise from the head office in Shanghai.

'There are also foreign consultants in lighting design, power system engineering and security expertise. A lot of learning goes on. We are doing this for the first time, but we intend to build on this and use it as a blueprint to leverage teams to operate at future mega events. We already have teams in place for the Olympics in London and Vancouver.'

The challenge now was to anticipate what problems might occur and ship in the spare parts that might be needed at Games time, Mr Fisher said.

'There will be no time to order in parts from Europe or even Shanghai in August, so we are now working closely with venue owners to plan what will be needed.

'Everything has been installed, lighting aimed correctly, power systems started up and tested, so we are not expecting major problems. The 40 test events have allowed us to do this.'

The company's service operation will be managed from a command centre at its Beijing office and will have 24/7 coverage with a team of 200 staff on call to service every venue.

'We will have morning sessions to recap on problems and anticipate issues every day. Ideally we use the latest technology for the Olympics, but the truth is that clients prefer tried and tested products that are reliable. The water technology used around the National Stadium is very new and the security equipment at the airport is new. Beijing's airport is only the second in China to have this equipment.'

As bags go through the airport on a transport system they are scanned for narcotics and bomb material. State-of-the-art security equipment at all venues will include access control, closed-circuit television and intrusion (motion detector) technology.

The lighting design project at aquatics venue Watercube will enhance the broadcast of the Games and limit glare from the pool.

Mr Fisher said the aim of the venue lighting was to focus on the field of play and not on the spectators.

NBC Universal, a division of GE, is the exclusive United States media partner of the Olympic Games and the official broadcaster.

The company, through its 'ecomagination' initiative, is applying environmental resources, business expertise and technology to create solutions to ensure that the Olympic environmental legacy is a positive one.

The National Stadium's new rainwater recycling system will use underground pools that process up to 100 tonnes of rainwater an hour, 80 tonnes of which can be reused for landscaping, fire-fighting and cleaning - a direct way to lower the stadium's water consumption.

Such water treatment technologies are part of a larger effort to help Beijing implement an environmentally sustainable water management solution during the Games and beyond.

Energy-efficient turbines will deliver power, heating and cooling to the Olympic Central Area.

These systems successfully convert fuels such as natural gases into a cleaner burning energy source.

The process reduces emission of nitrogen oxide and particulates by more than 60 per cent and reduces sulphur dioxide by more than 90 per cent.

GE has been active in China for more than 100 years and is now working with the National Development and Reform Commission to drive environmentally sound technologies including cleaner coal power generation, renewable energy, water reuse and desalination, high-efficiency and low-emission aircraft engines and locomotives, energy-efficient lighting and power distribution.

Mr Fisher said the Beijing Games would help to enhance GE's ability to provide complex, project-oriented solutions for customers in the mainland.

'We have many projects outside the Olympics in China and we're now positioned to help the nation achieve its long-term environmental goal,' he said.

GE will unveil a structure at the Beijing Games called the Imagination Centre which will integrate the company's ongoing 'Imagination at Work' campaign. Following the theme of the five core Chinese elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water, the Imagination Centre will showcase innovative technologies from many of the GE businesses that contributed to building the infrastructure for the Beijing Games, including energy, water, health care, transport and lighting. The Imagination Centre will be on the Olympic Green.