Sport

Cricket World Cup 2015: How Technology Is Changing Our National Summer Sport

For many people, cricket evokes idyllic scenes of the sport being played on a village green by players dressed in white, stopping for a break to grab some tea and a sandwich, but such traditional scenes betray the game’s more recent relationship with technology both on and off the pitch.

Video replays have been used to help umpires decide on run outs for some time, but many broadcast technologies like hotspot, snicko and hawk-eye are now used in matches as part of the Decision Review System (DRS).

India has been a notable opponent of DRS, but most fans, players and observers accept that technology has changed the sport for the better. For the International Cricket Council (ICC), innovations mean that more correct decisions are being made than ever before. (more…)

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NBA: Technology Is Essential For Basketball Expansion

The National Basketball Association (NBA) says technology and social media is helping the organisation spread its wings beyond North America and to recreate the arena experience for home viewers.

International expansion is a priority for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who was in London for a match between New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks at the O2, and said the sports industry had an advantage over other forms of entertainment because they’re best viewed live – making it difficult for viewers to skip adverts, and presumably turn to piracy.

However because most matches take place in the US or Canada, they are not particularly time-zone friendly to many markets, including the UK, making social engagement all the more important.

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Pixel Sport Meets Seb Coe: Technology Has Changed Sport Forever

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.

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Glasgow 2014: How Tech Helped Elinor Barker Win Silver And Bronze

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.

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Glasgow 2014: The Commonwealth Games Are More Than Just ‘S**t’

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.

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Glasgow 2014: The Politics Of The Commonwealth Games

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.

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Technology Aids Wimbledon In Quest To Be The Most Prestigious Grand Slam Of All

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.

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World Cup 2014: Multi-Ethnic Switzerland Advance In Brazil Amid Immigration Debate Back Home

This World Cup has been the best anyone can remember thanks to teams throwing caution to the wind and playing an enterprising brand of attacking football, resulting in plenty of goals and entertaining matches.

Even the traditionally conservative Swiss have been caught up in the excitement, progressing to the second round thanks to a late victory against Ecuador, a 5-2 defeat against France and a convincing 3-0 victory over Honduras.

This has set up a date with Argentina in the last 16 on Tuesday and Switzerland’s performance has been lauded by the Swiss media, which says the ghosts of South Africa, where Switzerland exited the group stage despite beating eventual champions Spain, have been laid to rest.

Blick declared the team had “graduated with flying colours” and “The business is done, now for fun. We’ll dance a tango with Argentina.” Neue Zürcher Zeitung agreed, stating the team had “met its target” and could play their second round match without pressure. State broadcaster SFR speculates Switzerland have acquired 200 million Brazilian fans, hoping Die Nati can dump Argentina out of the competition.

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Inside The FA National Football Centre At St George’s Park

St Georges Park 9

Last month, I was invited to take a look around the FA’s new national football centre at St George’s Park near Burton-upon-Trent.

I was there to hear about the technology used at the centre and to speak to the FA’s CTO Rob Ray about how technology plays such an important role in administrating the sport in England. I spent less than 24 hours at St George’s Park, but that was enough time to appreciate just how impressive a facility it is.

Set in 330 acres of Staffordshire countryside, the new £110 million centre is home to England’s 24 national teams (all age groups, men and women’s teams, and disabled teams) but is also where coaches will be instructed how to implement the FA’s future game plan to teach the next generation of footballers.

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From Wembley to Maidstone

The attention to detail is staggering. There are 11 outdoor pitches, including one that is made of the same turf as Wembley Stadium and is cut at exactly the same time as the one in London. There is also a full-sized indoor pitch made from artificial 3G turf, the same used by Maidstone United at the Gallagher Stadium. So it’s obvious that Maidstone and Wembley are the two most important surfaces in England then.

The England rugby team trained here during the Six Nations and are reportedly interested in building something similar. After visiting Pennyhill Park before their game with Ireland in February, it’s easy to see why the RFU would want something more state of the art.

The UK may not have the weather of Australia or the college sports system of the US, but it does have the financial resources to aid sporting success. The impact of National Lottery funding on Team GB’s medal count at the 2012 London Olympics was obvious, while Britain has some of the best sporting arenas in the world.

While we’ve seen unprecedented sporting success in this country over the last ten years, England’s national football team has not been able to end 47 years of hurt (and counting). St George’s Park won’t change everything overnight, but it’s clear that it is a facility to make any nation in the world jealous.

Leinster 18 – 22 Ulster: Northerners Break Dublin Duck

Leinster Ulster 5

RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster 18 – 22 Ulster (30 March 2013)

On a bitterly cold evening at the RDS Arena, Ulster secured their first victory in Dublin since 1999, securing a dramatic 22-18 victory over Leinster that was not without controversy.

Ulster were good value for their victory, but had to endure a last minute siege from the home side that continued long after 80 minutes had expired. Leinster were eventually held up over the try line, causing the referee to blow the final whistle.

As the crowd made their way to the exits and advertising hoardings were removed, it was announced over the PA system that the referee was reviewing the play. A confused crowd eventually discovered that no try had been scored, but you wonder what on Earth would have happened had the ball been successfully touched down, given that time had been called.

Regardless of the farcical scenes at the end, Leinster could have no complaints about the result. Aside from a brief spell at the beginning of the second half and at the breathless conclusion to the game, they produced very little going forward and were kept in the game thanks to fly-half Ian Madigan’s accuracy with the boot.

Madigan is currently enjoying success while deputising for the injured Jonny Sexton, offering hope that the province will enjoy a seamless transition when the Ireland number ten departs for Racing Metro at the end of the season.

The deputy’s influence on open play was limited but this didn’t stop him from giving Leinster a 12-8 half-time lead, scoring four penalties in response to Ulster’s unconverted try from flanker Robbie Diack and penalty from scrum-half Ruan Pienaar.

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Leinster started the second half positively, but failed to capitalise, adding only one penalty to their half time tally before Ulster began to assert their authority on the game. Two penalties from Pienaar eroded the home side’s lead even further, before replacement Iain Henderson scored a vital second try after 62 minutes.

Pienaar’s final penalty nine minutes later opened up a precious four point advantage that forced Leinster to go for the try, and despite relentless attempts to break down a stubborn Ulster defence, weakened by Jared Payne’s yellow card, they came up short.

The result blows the Pro 12 wide open, with Ulster leapfrogging Leinster into second place, just one point behind Glasgow at the summit. Leinster are two points behind in third position with a six point advantage over the chasing pack.