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Monday, July 30, 2012

Science of London 2012: Part 1 - clothing tech

The Science of the Olympic Games, Part 1: The technology effect

Last week Friday, at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, I gave a public presentation to welcome in the start of London 2012.  The presentation covered four topics - technology, doping in sport, Oscar Pistorius' advantage and South Africa's chances of 12 medals, in the context of Olympic economics.

The talk was aimed at the general public, to give them some insight into the 'hidden side' of the Games, and the scientific stories they'd be seeing and perhaps hearing about over the next two weeks.

Over the next few days, I'll share segments of that presentation with you.  Of course, without narration, it may lack the context to be fully understandable, but it is mostly (I hope), self-explanatory.

The first segment is on technology.  Beijing produced a clearance sale on swimming world records thanks to Speedo's LZR swimsuit, and introduced to us the concept of "technological doping".

So far, London has been interesting in this regard, because records are falling, but at nothing like the rate we saw in 2008.  So far, with eight events completed, we've seen three world and six Olympic records.  Compare this to Beijing, where 32 events produced 66 Olympic and 25 World Records.

One interesting observation you might want to make from home as you watch the swimming, is to note how often a swimmer is AHEAD of world record splits at the first turn (50m), and how rarely they stay ahead.  One possible interpretation is that the first 50m has improved disproportionately, and that seems, at least to my eye, to be partly due to modified and improved starting blocks.  The addition of the second block at the back, to allow a forceful horizontal push from the back leg, seems to have made the starts faster.  The result is that many are going out faster, not because of a faster swim, but a faster start.  They are then slowing in the second half.  Or maybe it's just an interesting observation that says more about pacing than equipment, who knows?  Time will tell!

But for now, this is a look back to a section of a talk given on Friday, dealing with technology, before the swimming events began.  Later this week I'll post the section of the talk looking at the war on doping.

Oh, and the Day 3 recap of London is yet to come.  Later tonight, after the swimming finals!