Sports technology takes centre stage at the London Olympics

This summer more than 10,000 athletes from 204 countries will take over London to showcase their skills in 26 sports.

This summer more than 10,000 athletes from 204 countries will take over London to showcase their skills in 26 sports.


Of course there will be the predictable story lines of Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and hometown favourites Paula Radcliffe, Mo Farah, and Jessica Ennis going for gold but everything from the shoes they use to the swimsuits they wear have taken an equally arduous route to get to London. Technology will undoubtedly play a huge role in all aspects of the Olympic Games, and here are some innovations to keep an eye on.

Nike Fly Knit

Inevitably Nike is one of the brands that love to show off their latest technology in Olympic years. The company was built upon footwear and with the release of the Nike FlyKnit they are trying to retain their place as one of the industry’s premier technology leaders.  FlyKnit is a new approach on a shoe’s upper.  Using patented 3-D knitting technology the shoe upper looks like a form fitting sock made of knitted thread for both comfort and structure.  The shoes will be showcased with starting with distance runners from the US, Great Britain, Russia, and Kenya for the Olympics.  The shoe weighs a mere 5.6 oz (160g) with the knit upper coming in at 1.2oz (34g).  The full shoe is a full 19% lighter than Nike’s most popular distance shoe the Nike Zoom Streak 3.
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Wheelchair Basketball

The Paralympic Games will occur shortly after the conclusion of the abled body Olympics in August 2012 and wheelchair basketball is one of the premier events.  The athletes use highly-regulated chairs that probably have more in common with elite-level road racing bikes than their everyday transportation equivalents.  They need to cater to a variety of athletes’ physical requirements for performance and comfort.  These chairs are often customized to the athlete’s specifications using a combination of innovative materials and manufacturing processes.  

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The innovations during the summer games will extend to the fans as well.  The BBC will be broadcast the Opening/Closing Cermonies and the 100m final in 3D.  In addition there will be 24 live HD streams and all events will be viewable from start to finish on the BBC.  There will be several viewing stations across the country that will broadcast in ‘Super Hi-Vision’ which is a 16x the resolution of conventional HD.  

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Speedo’s Aqualab released their latest innovations at the end of 2011 so you can expect to see the new equipment this summer on their sponsored athletes.  It’s called FASTSKIN3 and it takes swimwear design to a new level by considering the swimmer as a complete system – goggles, cap, and suit have been optimised together using computational fluid dynamics in virtual simulations to decrease drag.  The radical goggles fill in the entire eye not only to reduce drag from the face, but also to direct the flow of water to work with the contours of the swim cap.  There’s even a ‘hair shaping’ under-cap for long haired swimmers!  The suit itself looks as much like a piece of engineering as a piece of clothing.  Efficiency is the name of the game and reductions of 16.6% passive drag (static swimmer) and 5.2% active drag (swimming swimmer) are certainly notable.

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About the Sports Technology Podcast

The Sports Technology Podcast is a collaboration between three colleagues at Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute.  Each week the Podcast talks about the latest news in the world of sports, engineering, design, and business.  The goal of the podcast is to provide a platform for industry professionals, entrepreneurs, and researchers to discuss their work and share their thoughts on the evolving role of technology in sports.


Twitter: @SportsTechPod

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