Abstract Background The use of geographical information system (GIS) technologies in public health surveillance is gradually gaining momentum around the world and many applications have already been reported in the literature. In this study, GIS technology was used to help county departments of Public Health to implement environmental health surveillance for the Athens 2004 Olympic and Para Olympic Games. Methods In order to assess the workload in each Olympic county, 19 registry forms and 17 standardized inspection forms were developed to register and inspect environmental health items requiring inspection (Hotels, restaurants, swimming pools, water supply system etc), respectively. Furthermore, related databases were created using Epi Info 2002 and a geographical information system (GIS) were used to implement an integrated Environmental Health inspection program. The project was conducted in Athens by the Olympic Planning Unit (OPU) of the National School of Public Health, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity and the corresponding departments of Public Health in all municipalities that were scheduled to host events during the Athens 2004 Olympic and Para Olympic games. Results A total of 44,741 premises of environmental health interest were geocoded into GIS databases and several electronic maps were developed. Using such maps in association with specific criteria, we first identified the maximum workload required to execute environmental health inspections in all premises within the eleven Olympic County Departments of Public Health. Six different scenarios were created for each county, based on devised algorithms in order to design the most effective and realistic inspection program using the available inspectors from each municipality. Furthermore, GIS applications were used to organize the daily inspection program for the Olympic games, provide coloured displays of the inspection results and link those results with the public health surveillance of specific cases or outbreak investigation. Conclusion Our computerised program exhibited significant efficiency in facilitating the prudent use of public health resources in implementing environmental health inspections in densely populated urban areas as well as in rural counties. Furthermore, the application of simple algorithms in integrating human and other resources provided tailored and cost-effective applications to different public health agencies.