A long history: EMV and the Olympics

These prepaid chip cards were used to try and launch the technology in the U.S. during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Tonight the world will come together and the focus will be on Sochi, Russia, and the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics. While this is a joyous occasion, there are many reports about security concerns and incomplete infrastructure that could cause major problems.

One thing that every visitor to the games from the United States will come across is different credit card technology protection processes - namely EMV chip cards. This is a standard across Europe and Canada and, as of 2013, 75 percent of Russian ATMs are compliant with this process. Those unfamiliar with it will be able to see it up close and personal.

Chip cards are far from being a new technology. In fact, this is not the first time that these two entities have come together. During the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Visa rolled out a new "smart card" that contained an embedded chip. Working with several banks in the Southeast, Visa distributed 1.7 million "stored value" cards.

According to an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time of the games, the plan was to use the Olympics as a "massive introduction of smart cards to U.S. consumers." That would be followed by a vigorous adoption of the technology that would outpace credit cards and help create a cashless society.

Clearly the mass adoption did not happen as planned, but it could be coming. There are deadlines in place that will force EMV to be adopted and many industry experts are calling for retailers and card providers to be ahead of the game.

by Ty Hardison

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