12 January 2010

Olympics: For Athleticism or Athletic Equipment?

The Olympics would appear to be no longer about athleticism or finding the best of the best in a sport. At least, not with respect to certain sports.

Take snowboarding for an example. The base of the board Canada's athletes will use during the Games "cuts friction by 15 to 20 per cent compared to commercially available products" or so claims the creator. Other changes to the snowboarders' equipment have already enhanced the athletes' performances.

Then there is the project Top Secret, described as a "five-year, $8-million technological arms race unprecedented in Canadian sport history."

Researchers across the country have been breaking down the science of winter sport, looking for any edge in training, human performance and equipment. “To date, we’ve completed 55 projects, using 17 different universities and institutions,” says Todd Allinger, the Vancouver-based biomechanist who manages the program. “I think it’s been very successful."

Now I am no athlete, but I do know a thing or two about fairness. Common sense tells me that if you want to assess the relative merits of athletic performance, then all athletes in a sport should use the same equipment. If they don't, then at the level of Olympians where fractions of seconds can mean the difference between the gold medal and tenth place, the competition becomes about the equipment.

So is Canada spending billions upon billions of dollars for a winter Olympics for sports equipment and the manufacturers who make it? It looks increasingly like it to me.

Recommend this post