The Summer Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo during the period from July 23 to August 8, 2021 – the competitions have been postponed due to coronavirus pandemic. Japan is one of the most developed countries with regard to new technologies, so it is an occasion for recalling scientific developments that make life easier for athletes and let them set new records.
Almost 3,000 years have passed from the era of runners and wrestlers who would compete for an olive crown to modern technological competitions: the first Olympic Games were held in Greece in 776 B.C. However, the athletes would try every trick – the pugilists wrapped soft leather belts around the fists to cushion the blow, while the wrestlers might rub themselves with oil to slip out of the locks.
Today, new technologies render aid to both athletes and referees: the thrill of competition and commercial interest require absolute accuracy in decision making – up to 1 mm and fractions of a second – in any kind of sports, especially during major competitions, like the Olympic Games, world cups, etc.
Up to millimeters and fractions of a second
The tracking and surveillance technologies determine who is the strongest, quickest, and most accurate athlete to a great extent. For instance, the speed of ball in lawn tennis may reach 200 km/h. The referee’s eye may fail to notice the ball touching the net or court, especially when the ball hits the field corner.
Hawk-Eye system is commonly used in volleyball, lawn tennis, and cricket. 6-10 digital cameras installed around the field track the ball’s movements with the rate of 60 frames per second. They are located so that to fix the ball position from different angles. Some of the cameras track the ball in a horizontal plane (length and width), while others in horizontal and vertical ones. The computer models the 3D position of the ball and trajectory of its movement with travel time taken into account. Then, the landing place of ball is identified and deformation is calculated: thus, the system makes the decision as to the ball having hit the playing ground or not.
The technologies replace traditional finish tape as well: when the runners finish with a difference of a couple of seconds, the result is obvious, yet only the camera can decide the winner in case the difference is several centiseconds. Photo finish is used in track-and-field events, cycling, motor racing, skiing, and skating. The system works on the principle of slit photography: the image is projected through a narrow slot, while the matrix of digital camera, unlike the one of conventional cameras, uses only the vertical row of pixels for recording.
The modern photo finish systems are equipped with a timer synchronized with the start signal. It allows not only for identifying the finishing order, but for fixing the accurate result of each athlete.
A record number of records – 42 – were set at the World Swimming Championship in Rome. However, these achievements can be equally considered a tribute to the producers of swimming suits. The swimmers competed in LZR Racer suits made of waterproof fabric consisting of twisted elastane, nylon, and polyurethane yarns. These swimming suits ensure a higher extent of supplying muscles with oxygen and keep the athlete’s body in a more comfortable hydrodynamic position thanks to repellent features and higher flexibility of the fabric. In order to reduce the frontal resistance even more, the swimming suit seams are stitched by way of ultrasonic welding method. After the competitions in Rome, the International Swimming Federation the tightened regulations for swimming suits – now, the athletes may use textile suits alone.
skating suits. The scientists create as accurate 3D copies of athletes as possible using the motion capture method. The models of speed-skaters are made of fiber glass, dressed in different suits and tested in the aerodynamic tunnel. In this way, the scientists choose fabrics with a lower resistance coefficient.
Greater attention is also paid to skating suits. The scientists create as accurate 3D copies of athletes as possible using the motion capture method. The models of speed-skaters are made of fiber glass, dressed in different suits and tested in the aerodynamic tunnel. In this way, the scientists choose fabrics with a lower resistance coefficient.
New materials and technologies are implemented in other ice skating sports. Composite materials – including the combinations of Kevlar, fiber glass, and carbon fiber – have replaced maple of willow wood in production of ice hockey sticks. Such sticks allow for throwing the puck with the speed of over 150 km/h.
Not for Professionals Alone
New technologies help keep fit and make life easier not only for athletes, but for supporters of healthy lifestyle as well. Even the jumping rope that everyone played with when a child has been transformed into a true innovation. Now, the system counts the number of jumps and reports the final figure to the athlete.
A special bottle will help keep the optimal fluid balance – it notifies the sportsman about drinking 20%, 50%, and 100% of average daily norm of water with the help of light-emitting diode lamps. The device is synchronized with the smartphone containing the required data.
A carbon bicycle has been developed for those who like both cycling and new technologies. It is lighter than metal machines, while the rigidity of carbon fiber can be regulated for individual details of bicycle frame. Working with carbon material with different rate of rigidity, the developers adapt the bicycles for various purposes. For instance, the machines for cross-country terrain are made softer in order to absorb vibration more efficiently, while a more rigid frame is used for the racing bicycle models.
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