A version of this article was originally published on TechWeekEurope. For more sports technology coverage click here.
Lord Sebastian Coe, the former chairman of the organising committee for London 2012 Olympic Games, says technology has changed sport in ways he couldn’t have imagined when competing in the 1500 metres and 800 metres in the 1970s and 80s.
Speaking during the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the current chair of the British Olympic Association (BOA), explained that IT has become an increasingly integral part of the planning process for major sporting events in order to keep up the increasing demands and expectations of athletes, officials, the media and spectators.
“Science and technology, in particular, have changed the way we train for sporting events, how we take part in them and how we experience them as spectators,” he said.
Lord Sebastian Coe’s career as a sports administrator has been so successful it’s sometimes easy to forget he was a brilliant athlete too, winning gold in the 1500 metres at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and silver in the 800 metres in both of those years.
The former chairman of the organising committee of the 2012 London Olympic Games and the current chair of the British Olympic Association (BOA) and one of three vice presidents of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has quite the CV.
When he talks about a major sporting event, people listen, which is why his views on the Rio Olympics, Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the future of the Paralympics mean something. Fortunately for Rio, he is bound by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to share his wisdom and experiences of organising an Olympic Games, something he is more than happy to do.
The seven members of Team Europe joined the hundreds of men and women who have contributed to an unprecedented summer of sporting success and even among a team of heroes, Ian Poulter cemented his place alongside the likes of Andy Murray, Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis as one if its chief protagonists.
Disneyland says that it is the place where dreams come true, but the last two weeks of London 2012 have proved that its claims are wrong – The Olympic Park in Stratford is. It is the dream of those who worked so hard to bring the Olympics back to London, the place where dreams of the participants are realised or shattered in an instant and it is the dream of spectators who want to witness history being made.
Even before the closing ceremony started on Sunday night, the discussion had turned towards what the legacy of these Olympics will be for the residents of London and the impact on participation levels on sport in this country.
That will be decided in the months and years to come, but despite the endless worries over cost and execution, one thing is clear – The Olympic Park is a significant achievement. Each facility is spectacular in its own way, even the temporary ones, and the Aquatics Centre and Veledrome are set to become iconic modern British sporting venues.
The centrepiece of course is the Olympic Stadium itself. While not as breathtaking as the Birds’ Nest in Beijing or even as effortlessly flash as Wembley, it is magnificent and should those who decide its fate stick to their guns, it should provide a lasting legacy for athletics in Britain.
Both sides were paralysed by the fear of exiting the competition and after 120 utterly dire minutes of football couldn’t separate the teams, a turgid penalty shoot-out ensued. Ukraine won 3-0 on spot kicks, making Switzerland the first side ever to be knocked out of the World Cup without conceding a goal and mercifully ending the torture.
Six years have passed since that night without a pretender to its unenviable crown, but Gabon v South Korea in the 2012 Olympic football competition is a serious rival. Strengthening its case was the fact that I paid £20 for the privilege. I was not alone as more than 76,000 people turned up to Wembley around 6,000 more than the attendance for Great Britain women’s famous victory over Brazil the night before in the same stadium.
On paper this was never going to be a marquee fixture and many spectators would have bought their tickets through the London 2012 ballot without knowing which teams they would be seeing. However plenty had paid after they knew the participants, eager to sample a taste of the Olympic Games.
Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Senegal had been a sobering experience for supporters of the newly-reformed Great Britain team, but the double header at Wembley on Sunday provided the best evidence yet that this might just be a worthwhile experiment.
A bumper crowd of 85,000 turned up to the national stadium, and the opening encounter between Senegal and Uruguay was a fiercely contested reminder that Olympic Gold is still valued outside this country.
After seven long years of waiting, the Olympic Games will arrive in London for the third time, with Danny Boyle’s “Isles of Wonder” opening ceremony giving the city the celebration it has never had.
Just one day after the jubilant scenes in Singapore that followed the announcement that the Games were coming to these shores, the tragic terrorist attacks of 7/7 put things into perspective. Unsurprisingly, Londoners weren’t exactly in a partying mood and it was several weeks before the achievement and the realisation of the task at hand was recognised.
Since then, it’s been a constant stream of negative press reports and public discontent. Debates about cost, legacy, infrastructure and, recently, security, have been dominating the headlines and you could have been forgiven for thinking that no one in the UK actually wanted the Olympics.
From the moment the first stage of the 2007 Tour de France passed through the streets of my hometown of Maidstone, I’ve been hooked to the greatest cycle race in the world. Much like the arrival of the Olympic Torch Relay earlier this week, it was surreal that one of the world’s biggest sporting events would pass through such a sportingly insignificant town.
I was eager to learn as much about the Tour as I could and my starting point was the revised edition of Geoffrey Wheatcoft’s history, Le Tour, which I read while watching the rest of that year’s race. It’s origins, historical context, protagonists and storied past had me captivated, while its tactics and terminology were equally fascinating.
This all contributed to a sense that the Tour was fundemantally alien to British sporting traditions. There were notable exceptions – the tragic Tom Simpson and the 1984 King of the Mountain Robert Millar are but two, but they are figures barely recognised in our rich sporting tapestry.
A parade of sponsored buses advertising Samsung and Coca Cola and blasting out Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe probably isn’t what the Ancient Greeks and later Baron Pierre de Coubertin had in mind when they outlined their respective Olympic visions.
But over the last nine weeks, the Olympic Torch Relay has given people outside of London the chance to enjoy a taste of the atmosphere that will descend on the capital in just seven days’ time.
On the face of it, watching someone you’ve most likely never heard of run through your village or town centre carrying a large ornamental torch shouldn’t be that extraordinary, but it has attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators.
This morning was no different as 40,000 people lined the streets of Maidstone at 6:30am to greet the torch’s arrival in the county town, providing the perfect antidote to the endless stream of negative media coverage.
It’s not being overly critical to suggest that LOCOG has dropped the ball with the Olympic ticketing system. A confusing process that was weighted in favour of those who could afford to take a risk left many interested spectators without any tickets and reduced them to fighting for scraps in additional rounds of sales.
Unsurprisingly, there was fairly inelastic demand for flagship events such as the opening ceremony and men’s 100 metres final, while other sports such as cycling, gymnastics and swimming have also proved popular.
In fact, there was only one event that struggled to sell its allocation and it just happened to be the world’s most high profile sport. Football’s presence at the Olympics has long been debated by those who feel that is inclusion is contrary to the principles of the games and feel that a gold medal should be the highest achievement possible in an Olympic sport.
Football doesn’t need the Olympics and the quadrennial games would survive without football, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong.