Olympics_Ver2The “Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 Winter Olympics is widely considered the greatest U.S. sports moment of all-time – and with excellent reason. Nearly 34 years ago, a group of unheralded men’s college hockey players from Massachusetts and Minnesota stunned the mighty Soviet Union – and the world – with the upset of all upsets: a come-from-behind 4-3 semifinal win in the quiet town of Lake Placid, N.Y.

Mike Eruzione became, and remains, a national hero for scoring the game-winning goal. Al Michaels’ call in the final seconds is as celebrated as the win itself – six unscripted and hair-raising words: “Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!

To think, only the 8,500 fans inside the rink watched this iconic sports moment as it actually unfolded. The majority of Americans were unaware of the outcome until hours later.

As the New York Times noted on the 20th anniversary, “ABC had tried, unsuccessfully, to shift the start from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. What some have called the greatest sports moment of the century wound up on tape delay.”

Tape delay? It’s a funny thought in 2014, especially when you consider the giant role digital and social media will play at the XXII Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Anyone with Internet access can receive real-time updates or watch the action via live-streaming video from desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets alike.

For fans that can’t have too much Olympic coverage, the 17-day span from February 7 to 23 should be a treat. But there are enormous challenges on several fronts for IT administrators, specifically those at small to mid-sized businesses.

A recent GFI survey found that 43% of small-business workers with employee-owned computing devices use them to remotely access the corporate network.

Also, a 2012 report by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) notes “unprecedented digital coverage that let fans access the Games anytime, anywhere. The 2012 Games were the first to fully embrace online and social media.”

Connect the dots. Without reasonable web-browsing policies in place, major sporting events like the Olympics and World Cup have the potential to:

  • Hurt workforce productivity
  • Consume considerable network bandwidth
  • Introduce several security threats

By no means are these issues mutually exclusive. And all three can hit a company where it really hurts: in the budget. Less productive workers take more time to complete jobs; excess bandwidth usage can slow core operating systems considerably; and increased security threats place business intelligence at great risk and introduce possible legal trouble. Addressing these issues costs money.

Here’s something else to consider: The threat of a terrorist attack on the Sochi Games – as unsettling as it is – can’t be overlooked.

Safety for people attending the Games has been a hot topic in recent weeks. According to this recent Associated Press story:

“More than 50,000 police and military personnel are being deployed to guard Russia’s first Winter Games.”

IOC President Thomas Bach likened the focus on security to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, which occurred less than a year after the September 11 attacks.

Fear of an attack and concerns over high costs may keep a larger group from gathering at the Sochi Games. (Of the 1.1 million tickets available, 300,000 remain unsold with less than a month until the Games begin.) The Internet – and the many devices employees use for connecting to it – could be one of the year’s top tech stories should people stay home. How IT administrators deal with this development may prove to be a significant sidebar.

One way or another, the world will be watching. And it won’t be on tape delay.