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An Olympian effort

Kem Widmer took on Olympic Dream Team standout Tim Duncan during his playing days at Lehigh.

As one of the key cogs on an Olympic team, former Lehigh student-athlete Kemble “Kem” Widmer III ’96 is living every athlete’s dream.

No, the former Mountain Hawks’ basketball star isn’t on Team USA. Actually, Widmer is playing a much more important role. He’s a program manager for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), the firm hired by the Greek government to help secure the 2004 Summer Olympic Games that will be held Aug. 13-29 in Athens.

SAIC is the largest employee-owned research and engineering firm in the United States, and Widmer’s hard work and that of SAIC’s 104-person team will ensure that all of the athletes, spectators and media types at this summer’s Olympics are safe and sound.

“This is an amazing opportunity and challenge,” says Widmer, who has been in Athens, Greece, since April of 2003 and will remain there until the Paralympic Games (which immediately follow the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens) wrap up in late September. “To ensure that these Olympics go off without a hitch has taken the hard work of hundreds of people from all over the world. It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”

A massive project

SAIC, which performed the same task at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, is putting together a C4I system (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence), to give the Greek government the tools they need to manage the security.

“One of the key reasons our company was chosen for this large-scale project is that my boss, David Tubbs, spent 24 years with the FBI and oversaw the security for the 2002 Winter Olympics,” says Widmer. “David knows what it takes to provide a secure environment for an international event like this.”

The single-biggest challenge, according to Widmer, has been the time constraints.

“Normally, a project of this magnitude takes two to three years to implement,” said Widmer. “But by the time the contracts were signed, SAIC had just over one year to deliver all of its systems and subsystems and to help the Greek government agencies to conduct the necessary training for the thousands of users.”

SAIC’s C4I system is composed of 30 subsystems that will allow Greek authorities to collect, analyze and disseminate information. It includes a command and decision support system, a communication and information system, a digital trunked radio system, a port security system, and fixed and mobile command centers for the Greek police and firefighters, the coast guard, the Athens Olympic Committee Security Division, and the Ministry of Defense.

Third-generation Lehigh

Widmer scored 955 points during his Lehigh basketball career.

The fact that he is working in the birthplace of the Olympics—Athens, Greece—isn’t lost on Widmer, a 1996 industrial engineering graduate from Lehigh.

“To be working and walking among such historic sites as Ancient Olympia is absolutely amazing,” he says. “And to be charged with making sure these Olympics go off without a hitch, in the birthplace of the Olympic movement, is an awesome responsibility. Being a former athlete myself, I know all the hours of hard work and preparation the athletes have put into performing for these Games. And this team is working just as hard to ensure that everyone is safe here in Athens later this summer.”

Widmer, a third-generation Lehigh graduate (his grandfather Kemble was a member of the Class of ’37, his dad Kemble II received his B.A. from Lehigh in 1963 and his masters in 1965), was a former basketball standout at Lehigh between 1992 and1996. Over the course of his playing career, Widmer played in 101 games, scoring 955 points and earning second-team All-Patriot League honors as a senior in 1996.

Widmer believes his experience as a Lehigh student-athlete uniquely prepared him for the challenges he has faced in his work life, including this latest project in Athens.

“Without my Lehigh education, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Widmer says. “My Lehigh degree set me apart and has really opened doors for me. It’s enabled me to work on some really neat projects, most notably this one.

“Working on this project has enabled me to work with and make friends all over the world. To be part of an Olympic Games is the experience of a lifetime.”

--Bill Doherty

Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004

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