Back from Wimbledon, where I spent Thursday and Friday in the IBM bunker, helping Ian run real and/or virtual tours of the Wimbledon event. Like last year, I managed to grab a few photos of the tennis.
But perhaps more interestingly, I spent a while wandering around the championships to share a few photos of what Wimbledon is like behind the scenes.
My previous experience of Wimbledon was helping out in the hospitality suite. The bunker (or ‘IBM areas’ as my ground pass describes it), embedded in the broadcasting centre, is a totally different experience. I didn’t see a single drop of Pimms this year, for example. :-)
The working day for the team is long. The team start arriving anywhere from 7:00am with even the late stragglers like me wandering in around 9:00, and didn’t even start to head home until the tennis finished over 12 hours later. In fact, much of the team didn’t start packing up for the night until 10:30 or 11:00pm, depending on the last job: delivering the following day’s schedule. The afternoon tends to include a few tours of the IBM setup, with clients and business partners being shown around everything from how the scores and match statistics make their way from the court to the commentator, the infrastructure of the wimbledon.org site and (increasingly, this year) what IBM is doing for Wimbledon in Second Life.
The setup in SL contains a virtual court, scoreboards, video wall, Wimbledon branded freebies (clothes, umbrellas, eyeballs, flying towel, …), and lots more. As with all the best things, it’s not finished. Early on the first day, Ian handed me a webcam and I used Veodia to set up a video stream from the real life bunker back into SL so people can see some of the buzz. Expect to see more demonstrations of the real world setup being added over the next few days too.
It has been steadily attracting good numbers of visitors from all over the world, and getting it mentioned a couple of weeks ago in the New Scientist blog and a few other places probably didn’t hurt at all. I couldn’t help thinking that it would be an interesting (but probably very short-lived) experiment to link to the event from the wimbledon.org homepage. That site gets a frankly incredible amount of traffic and it’s impressive to watch the hit counter whirring by; the last two or three digits are a blur, even at quiet moments. The important thing with the virtual facet of Wimbledon was to reach people though, even individually. In fact, especially individually. Meeting people (whether they were visiting execs in the real world, or SL visitors) and helping them understand what we were doing certainly made for an exciting couple of days.