London Hacked Its Own Traffic Lights To Make Sure It Got The Olympics

London fought tooth and nail for the 2012 Summer Olympics. How bad did it want them? Bad enough, apparently, for the city to hack its own traffic lights to ensure the IOC evaluation committee didn't get stuck in London gridlock back in 2005.

Bid-committee officials knew that London's transportation system was a weak spot on the city's application. "Our nightmare was it would take forever to get to the venues," Mills recalled. A bid-committee team planned the routes that I.O.C. members would travel around the city, and G.P.S. transmitters were planted in all of the I.O.C. members' vehicles so they could be tracked. From the London Traffic Control centre, near Victoria Station, where hundreds of monitors display live feeds from London's comprehensive CCTV surveillance system, each vehicle was followed, from camera to camera, "and when they came up to traffic lights," Mills said, "we turned them green."

It worked. London landed the games, but lately it's been all panic over poisonous caterpillars, rooftop missile launchers, and now Vanity Fair wondering aloud whether London can really afford to host the games. But that's all beside the point. Let's just bask in London wanting the win so badly that it ran some performance-enhancing transmissions through its traffic grid. You know, in the spirit of competition. [Vanity Fair]

Image: Sue Smith/Shutterstock



    Didn't Sydney use this trick?

    Every city uses this functionality available to them in their traffic monitoring systems. Notice I didn't use the word "trick". It's not a trick. It's generally used for VIPs, and is not just a one-off instance.

    Sydney did the same thing to win the 2000 Olympics. I think it's pretty normal practice, unfortunately.

    I'm still looking for the bit where anything was hacked... I wish folks didn't use that word as synonomous with any kind of techno-anything. They geotraced the cars, and rigged the lights, but nobody 'hacked' anything here.

    Was following an Camo'd Humvee the other day (in Perth), and every lights we rocked up to, 'magically' turned green.... even if they had only just turned red. Was the quickest trip to the city we've ever had, we just tagged along nearly the whole way :)

    One of my friends was living in China at the time of their IOC inspection and he was telling me that he saw people spray-painting dirt green so that it looked like lush grass from a distance.

    Whole other level much?

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