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| 2 minutes read

The Largest Connected Stadium in Sports

Last weekend saw the start of one of the most iconic events of every sporting summer, as the Tour de France set off from Florence. While the performance of the athletes may leave spectators and television viewers in awe, the tech infrastructure of the Tour de France, making the event what it is today, is also extremely impressive. 

Understandably, given the vast distances and difficult terrains which make up each stage of the race, following, adjudicating and broadcasting the event is a huge operation. Facing this challenge, event organisers and partners have embraced innovation to make the Tour de France course the ‘largest connected stadium in sports’, to bring fans as close to the action as possible. 

At a high level, the concept of the ‘largest connected stadium in sports’ is powered by cloud technologies, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). Data, including latitude, longitude and speed, is constantly captured from the course and from each rider, informing organisers’ decision-making and powering fan engagement activities, such as the official smartphone application, social media channels, and broadcast graphics. The Tour also uses AI to analyse historical and real-time data to predict race outcomes and provide insights that drive engagement.

Additionally, underneath the seat of every bike is a device containing a GPS chip, radio transmitter and a battery. Every second, data is collected from the device and relayed to broadcast helicopters which send it to the tech zone at the finish line. From here it is sent to data centres which then create statistics and visualisations, such as live timing, heat maps and average speed graphics.

The use of cloud infrastructure minimises the need to have as much kit and support staff on-site, while edge computing, which analyses data as close as possible to the point of collection, significantly reduces latency.

This quality and quantity of data means the Tour is able to create a digital twin of the entire race, allowing organisers to meticulously plan each stage and monitor the race in real-time, making fast adjustments where necessary. This information is also sent to official team cars and even gives fans on the roadside an estimated arrival time for the peloton via the official smartphone application.

Understandably, the scale of the race makes it hard to follow in person, while road closures present problems for residents. To solve these twin challenges, the Tour de France also utilises community-based traffic and navigation technologies, helping fans to plan journeys around the race through the power of crowd-sourced data.

These activities are underpinned by the local cellular network, connecting the finish line, intermediate sprint points, and the International Cycling Union (UCI) jury who might need to make a judgement or disciplinary decision based on video footage.

While the major cities the race passes through will be covered by commercial fibre deployments, the Tour also takes in rural villages and famous climbs in the Pyrenees and the Alps; areas where network connectivity might be lacking. To combat this, the Tour’s network provider also installs fibre at both the stage start and finish line, benefitting local communities, whilst deploying temporary mobile infrastructure where necessary.

For those who dream of testing themselves against cycling’s elite, there is also Strava’s connected fitness platform, providing first-party engagement by allowing amateur riders to see official routes and training data from professional cyclists.

Therefore, while it may not fit the conventional profile for a sports stadium, embracing innovation may give the Tour de France a very legitimate shout as having the largest connected stadium in sports. 

While it may not fit the conventional profile for a sports stadium, embracing innovation may give the Tour de France a very legitimate shout as having the largest connected stadium in sports.


sportstech, artificial intelligence, creative industries, yes