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Lenovo's Olympic Coming Out Party

Technology buyers, IBM customers and those that follow the news have probably heard of Lenovo, the China-based computer company that took over IBM's desktop and notebook business in a blockbuster billion dollar deal completed earlier this year.

But Lenovo, which instantly vaulted to the No. 3 slot of PC providers with the addition of IBM's line of ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops, is hardly a household name.

The company hopes to change that when it becomes the computing equipment partner to the upcoming 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. It's also a worldwide sponsor of the games.

The payoff before such a global audience could go a long way toward helping establish Lenovo's name, but it's not without risks. In 1996, IBM had a disastrous stewardship as the sponsor and computer provider for the Olympic Games in Atlanta. Numerous problems with its computer systems led some wags to rename it the "Glitch Games."

Unfortunately for IBM, its problems gained extra, unwanted coverage, because the system that failed was the one delivering scores, times and other results to the news media.

IBM recovered nicely at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics and continues to support sporting events. Earlier this month, Big Blue marked its 14th consecutive year of providing servers and database technology for the U.S. Open Web site and tournament.

Lenovo officials said their systems have gone through rigorous testing and expressed confidence their efforts in Torino will pay off.

"We want viewers to value our new brand and to know what it stands for," said Philippe Davy, Lenovo's vice president of marketing, in a statement. "We want them to attach the Lenovo name to the highest standards of customer service and innovation, and the demanding context of the Olympic Games will show that."

For the Olympic Winter Games, Lenovo will be providing a laundry list of tech gear that includes about 5,000 desktop PCs, 350 servers and 600 notebook computers. This hardware supports the four major applications of Olympic operations -- Games Management Systems, Games INFO2006 System, Venue and Central Results System, and Commentator Information System.

In addition to providing hardware for overall Olympic operations, Lenovo will create seven Internet lounges in three athlete villages, including Torino, Sestriere and Bardonecchia, as well as in the Main Media Center in Torino.

The upcoming Winter Games will provide the highest ratio of Internet lounge-based PCs to athletes, trainers and coaches in Olympic history. Lenovo is also planning a technology showcase for key customers in downtown Torino, featuring the latest ThinkPad notebooks and Lenovo personal computers.