Published on 08 June 2023

How Orange expertise is fundamental for today’s sporting events

Portrait Pierre-Louis de Guillebon
Pierre-Louis de Guillebon, CEO of Orange Events

Interview of Pierre-Louis de Guillebon
CEO of Orange Events

For several decades, Orange has used its expertise in connectivity, digital technology, and enabling live image broadcasting to support major sporting events. Pierre-Louis de Guillebon, CEO of Orange Events, explains how this will be a unique experience in the world of telecoms.

Every year, Orange Events manages the technology used to coordinate more than 5,000 events in France and abroad through various solutions involving networks, live streaming, connectivity, and more. It employs 150 experts who support major sporting events including the Tour de France, Football World Cup, African Cup of Nations, Paris-Dakar, Vendée Globe, etc. Their support is also critical for the telecom systems that will be used during the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Pierre-Louis de Guillebon tells us more.

This is the first time in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that the organizers have entrusted the event’s connectivity to a single operator - Orange. What helped their decision?

Pierre-Louis de Guillebon: “At Orange Events, we are proud that the Organizing Committee has trusted us for the entire telecom component of Paris 2024, above all recognizing our expertise, whether in the field, in supervision centers or working behind the scenes. The Committee's decision is also linked to Orange’s long history of partnerships with sporting events. As long ago as 1992, France Télécom was already present at the Albertville Winter Olympics, and we’ve supported many major events since then including the 1998 Football World Cup, Euro 2016, and the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

In Africa, we have partnered with the Africa Cup of Nations since 2008. In 2012, Orange Poland was the technical partner for the Euro 2012 football. At each event, we continue to demonstrate our ability to provide all of the various technical solutions. In reality, there are very few operators in the world who have this skill in event services.”

What events are most emblematic for your expertise?

P-L.D.G.: “The Tour de France is one of the most iconic events, that’s for sure. Every year, I am always struck by the technological feats achieved by our teams during the three weeks of the event. Take a stunning - but completely isolated - location like the Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees. On the day the Tour arrives, an entire village is set up, fully connected with fiber, 5G, security, and a fully equipped bus for images and interviews... The Tour is also a chance to bring sustainable connectivity to various local communities by installing antenna which remain in use long after the race.

From sports to politics, our technical support for the 2019 G7 summit in Biarritz was another concrete example of our expertise during major international events with significant security challenges. Orange Events provided the entire telecom element of the summit, on behalf of the French government and several foreign embassies. We offered a complete service, from broadcasting to connectivity (wired internet access, Wi-Fi, LAN, etc.) and cybersecurity provided by Orange Cyberdefense.”

What will be the biggest technical challenge during Paris 2024?

P-L.D.G.:“To paraphrase Christel Heydemann, Paris 2024 is the ‘Everest of telecoms’, and main way we can demonstrate our expertise and know-how. We have to meet the deadlines to the nearest second. On July 26, 2024, at 8:24 pm we will press a button, and everything should work. Throughout the duration of the event, we will have no room for error.

It is also a huge technological – and budgetary – challenge, running the equivalent of around forty football World Cups simultaneously. We’re currently purchasing a lot of equipment to deliver to the competition sites. The logistics involved are exceptional.”

How are you planning to be ready for D-Day?

P-L.D.G.: “At Orange, 1,000 employees – engineers, managers, technicians – will be 100% mobilized for Paris 2024, both in the field and behind the scenes in front of supervision screens, for example. The planning starts in the summer of 2023. Orange Events will bring its expertise 30 'test-events': from the sailing qualifications in the Marina of Marseille to the Archery World Cup, and the Rugby World Cup of course. This allows us to test technology, logistics, and security for future Paris 2024 venues in real-life conditions.”

photo de spectateurs qui applaudissent

Can you give us examples of the technologies you’re testing?

P-L.D.G.: “We’re preparing for all the technical aspects of the events: mobile coverage, TV broadcasting, wired coverage, Wi-Fi connectivity for the organizers and press... In Marseille, for example, we are testing the live streaming systems – from cameras on board the boats to drone footage – in real-life, sometimes extreme conditions.

This technology completely changes the viewer’s relationship to the event, as was the case during the 2023 Alpine World Ski Championships in Courchevel and Méribel, where we were in charge of image transmission. The effect is spectacular!”

How will innovation feature during the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games?

P-L.D.G.: “We want help Paris 2024 accelerate sustainable innovation, by capitalizing on all the solutions put in place during the event. One example is our ‘push-to-talk’ service suite, which Paris 2024 will feature, and which can be used by all our B2B customers. In the same vein, we’ll be offering innovations in terms of 5G image capture and new immersive experiences for the general public, and many solutions that can be used again during major events in the coming years.

We want to ensure the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games leaves a legacy, in terms of technology, innovation, and new uses, before and after.”