A version of this article was originally published on TechWeekEurope. For more sports technology coverage click here.
The Commonwealth Games is the second-largest multi-sport tournament in the world, second only to the Olympics in scope, with the twentieth edition in Glasgow comprising some 260 medal events, 4,500 athletes and 15,000 volunteers.
The closing ceremony on Sunday brought to an end not just 11 days of superb sport, but also an extensive IT operation that has been instrumental to delivering what Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) CEO Mike Hooper called “the standout games in the history of the movement.”
While Usain Bolt, Greg Rutherford and Tom Daley were taking the plaudits in the competition venues, a more modest technology team, based at the Technology Operations Centre (TOC) at games headquarters in the city centre, ensured everything ran smoothly.
This is an updated version of article that appeared on TechWeekEurope. For more sports technology coverage click here.
There was a time when a half-time orange and the magic sponge where the height of technological innovation in sport, but in 2014, sporting federations and teams have armies of coaches, sport scientists and nutritionists whose job is to extract every ounce of performance from their athletes.
Video and data analysis is now used in almost every part of professional sport and cycling is no exception. For Great Britain’s world champion cyclist Elinor Barker, it helps her train, understand and improve her performances and help her fight the battle against doping.
Barker, winner of the team pursuit event at the 2013 and 2014 World Championships, won silver in the 25km points race and bronze in the 10km scratch race at the Commonwealth Games and is adamant that technology has helped her in her preparation.
Bolt’s alleged discretions aside, the comparisons between Glasgow 2014 and London 2012 were inevitable and unfair. With so many countries excluded because they never had the dubious honour of being invaded by the British (or were so unhappy with its rule that they left the Commonwealth), the standard in many sports was always going to be lower than the Olympics of a World Championships.
This much was evident from the moment Glasgow won the right to host the twentieth commonwealth games in 2007 and it didn’t seem to bother the Scottish public, the 15,000 volunteers and many of the participants, who were either delighted by their triumphs or distraught by their defeats. It’s clear they don’t share Bolt’s supposed claims that the Commonwealth Games are “a bit shit”.
The empty arenas of Delhi were replaced by passionate crowds in sporting theatres old and new – the Hydro, Ibrox and Hampden Park – the latter of which just looks as though it was made for athletics. The ethos of the friendly games was maintained with support offered for all nations, not just the Scots, but on the courts, pitches, floors and tracks, there were plenty of people desperate to bring home gold.
The final kilometres of the Tour de France must be a relief to everyone involved. After three weeks of intense racing, the last few laps of the Champs Elysee in Paris are a sign that the world’s most famous cycle race is coming to an end – except for the sprinters who want to win the Tour’s most prestigious stage of course.
But it’s not just the riders who are tired, it’s the tech team which have to power the television broadcasts and build the networks that facilitate the smooth running of a race that spans more than 3,500 kilometres.
The first Tour to be televised was the 1948 edition, when the riders arrivals at the Parc des Princes Velodrome during the final stage was transmitted. These days, the entire race is shown live by 85 broadcasters covering 180 countries, thanks to a technical operation unlike any other sporting event in the world.
And so the ‘friendly games’ begin. An opening ceremony filled with humour, tartan and an inexplicable amount of John Barrowman marked the start of the twentieth Commonwealth Games, a postcolonial curiosity has managed to endure almost a century of drastic political change.
Naturally a home games will always attract more attention in the UK, but Glasgow 2014 feels like a big deal. The enthusiasm of the host city is a marked change from the disinterest that greeted Delhi four years ago and despite injury and one or two exceptions, the Commonwealth’s biggest athletes are mostly here – including Usain Bolt.
This is Scotland’s chance to build on the momentum generated by London 2012 and the Rugby League World Cup last year and continue it onto the Rugby World Cup in 2015, as the UK’s ‘Golden Decade’ of sport continues.
But there’s an unavoidable elephant in the room – the issue of Scottish independence. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has promised he won’t politicise the games, but many will be waiting to see what kind of impact, if any, the games have on the referendum in September.
On the eve of the 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina, FIFA president Sepp Blatter declared this year’s event to be “the first truly mobile and social world cup.” It’s easy to disagree with many of Blatter’s statements but not this one of them.
In fact the only grounds for debate was that this wasn’t just the most social World Cup of all time, it was almost the most technological, with innovations on and off the pitch helping referees, players and fans.
Goal-line technology made its debut, 4K and streaming made huge strides and fans were more involved than ever before thanks to unprecedented channels of communication.
Last year, Pixel Sportreviewed Football Chairman Lite(FC Lite) and praised its simple, accessible take on running a football club, and hoped that future iterations would build on what is a great idea with more depth and realism.
The best thing about the game was it was free, making it easy to dismiss many imperfections or faults while enjoying its rapid, ‘one-more match’ gameplay. But this is an excuse that the £2.99 full version of Football Chairman cannot hide behind, especially with the best part of another year in development.
Football Chairman is an improvement, but a very minor one and the core concept is as appealing as ever. However there’s no escaping that it’s not vastly superior to the free version that we enjoyed so much 12 months ago.
England fans might be disappointed with the national team’s early exit from Brazil but, for what it’s worth, our representatives fared better in the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC), which for the first time took place in the same country at the same time as the FIFA World Cup.
Twenty-year old David Bytheway from Wolverhampton was one of two Englishmen to make the final 20 of the 2014 FIWC, but there was a familiar tale of valiant defeat as his German team lost 3-1 to the Brazil side controlled by Denmark’s August Rosenmeier in the final.
The final itself was held overlooking Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain and was the culmination of a tournament which started late last year.
Reading the Irish press in recent weeks, it would seem feasible that the three main issues affecting the country are the introduction of water charges, Garth Crooks’ controversial Croke Park concerts and the decision by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to sell some of its TV rights to Sky Sports.
The GAA’s new broadcast deal will see state broadcaster RTE show 31 matches and Sky 20 matches – 14 of which will be exclusively live. This marks the first time All-Ireland matches have not been free-to-air in Ireland, with RTE showing matches since 1962 and commercial station TV3 broadcasting games between 2008 and 2013.
So what? Sports organisations have been getting into bed with pay-tv for some time, why is this any different? Well, unlike football or rugby union, Gaelic Games are amateur at the highest level, with the GAA’s remit being to promote the games as part of a wider movement to promote Irish culture and the Irish language.
By partnering with Sky, many feel the GAA has prioritised commercial gain ahead of its principles, which would dictate hurling and Gaelic football are available to as wide a domestic audience as possible.
So in the end there was no fairy-tale ending for Roger Federer at this year’s Wimbledon. The perennial crowd favourite lost an epic final in five sets to Novak Djokovic, having saved championship point in the fourth. Djokovic was as graceful in victory as Federer was in defeat, hoping that he will have one more shot at Wimbledon glory before his illustrious career – arguably the greatest ever – comes to an end.
It was a different kind of final to the one that preceded it, when, on a tension-filled day on Centre Court, Andy Murray ended Britain’s 77 year wait for a British male winner – but not before subjecting us to one last excruciating game before the famous drought was ended.
But walking around the All-England Club (AELTC) last week, it was though nothing had changed from last year. The overpriced Pimm’s and Strawberries and Cream were still served, the queues still formed in Wimbledon Park and Henman Hill, the physical manifestation of the modern British obsession with finding a homegrown Wimbledon champion, was as busy as ever.