Barcelona’92 The Other Challenge The IX Paralympic Games. The technology of these exceptional Games

Agustín Argelich was technology Director of Barcelona´92  IX Paralympics Games

Barcelona’s athletic competitions did not end with the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in 1992.

Three weeks from now, from the 3rd to the 14th of September, Barcelona will host the IXth Paralympics Games, the peak of sporting achievement for the physically and sensorially handicapped which will bring together in Barcelona the best sportsmen and sportswomen in the world. For twelve days the Olympic Village and the twelve others games sites will reopen their gates to 3,000 athletes and 1,000 aids from 86 countries, more than 1,000 judges and referees, 800 accredited reporters, 32 broadcasting companies, 4,000 members of COOB’92 (the Barcelona’92 Organizing Committee) and service industry employees as well as 7,300 volunteers, without whom the Games would simply not be possible.

The technology of these exceptional Games

In the Paralympics Games the unusual is the norm; with fewer than half the sports of the Olympic Games, there are twice the number of events. Approximately 1,500 athletes are confined to wheelchairs, 700 are blind, and 24 hours before the start of any competition, 12% of the participants are likely to change their medical classification, consequently obligating the organizers to reschedule the event completely. When faced with such a singular task, those responsible must have at their disposal the very latest technological aids; the challenge can not be met otherwise.

But it is not only the organizers who need the help of technology: the athletes, too, can benefit. For example, in order to help the blind, the most advanced voice synthesizers have been built into computers and infrared-activated guidance systems, giving them a degree of independence that they otherwise would not enjoy.

The twelve Olympic Games sites are only one part of the complex infrastructure revived for the Paralympics. Miles of optical fibres connect the most advanced data transmission systems so that thousands of high-technology units (forming a communications network controlled from the Technology Operations Center) can enable the 12,000-strong organization team that makes the IXth Paralympics Games the best ever.



The complex organization of the Paralympics Games requires a powerful communications system capable of transmitting vital information from anywhere to anywhere else at any time.

This has been achieved through the repurposing of equipment used in the Olympic Games.

Special attention has been paid to the removal of architectural barriers in telecommunications services and the use of polyvalent systems, which allow easy access to the whole of the population and thus eliminate the need for special facilities for those with mobility problems.

The telecommunications system centers on three basic services: telephones, radio communication, and cable television (CATV).

The telephone service boasts a digital network with 3,700 extensions, a fax service with 150 machines and a data transmission network of 25 62kb/s lines, auxiliary lines of 9,6kb/s and 2.4kb/s capacity.

There are 1,500 walkie-talkies for short-range radio communication, it will be possible to reach approximately 800 people by bleeper from the message center, and there is a special Paralympics information service.

Transportation is very important in the Paralympics so 100 coaches, 40 vans and 400 other vehicles are expected to be equipped with communications units “trucking” technology, which is new to Spain.

At each site there are local cable television networks with receivers strategically distributed throughout, fed mainly by signals from the host television company showing results or information coming from the land-based radio communication system.

TELEFONICA and other companies of the group have made a vital contribution in supplying the networks required. Mention must also be made of ERICSSON (digital telephone switchboards), RICOH (fax machines) and PHILIPS (alphanumeric bleepers, mobile telephones, trucking terminals and televisions receivers).

Track Instruments, Timing and Scoreboards

SEIKO, the official timekeeper of the IXth Paralympics Games, has made available the most advanced timing and measuring equipment. Especially worthy of note are the electronic distance measuring units and the video finish which will replace the traditional photo finish in track and swimming events.

All of the equipment will be adapted to the special requirements of Paralympics sport.

The instruments receive and transmit information online from the results system with which they are totally integrated. This system is also connected to the television for the transmission of times and results.

There are also 20 large alphanumeric scoreboards installed around the venues which display all the information needed by spectators to stay abreast of the latest developments.

Furthermore, two giant video screens have been installed: a VIDEOWALL in the Palau Sant Jordi and a Jumbotron in the Olympic Stadium.

Electronic Security Control

Security is of the utmost importance at the Paralympics Games, so sophisticated electronic security systems with closed-circuit television, anti-intruder devices and perimeter protection have been installed.


Powerful high-quality sound systems have been supplied and installed by PHILIPS at all Paralympics venues. On the cycling and marathon routes mobile sound units will be used. A revolutionary new system based on interactive compact discs will be used to play the national anthems of the competing nations.

Eight conference rooms will be available, four of which, in addition to the normal support systems, will be equipped with facilities for simultaneous translation by means of infrared transmitters and receivers. This equipment will prove especially useful in the Paralympics as it will also be used in the stands at certain venues to keep blind people informed of the progress of the events.