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posted by mattie_p on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:30PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the and-now-for-sports dept.

CoolHand writes:

"Sci-Tech Today talks about the role of technology in the Olympics from a unique perspective:

Every advance in the ever-accelerating juggernaut of sports technology threatens to widen the divide between Olympic haves and have-nots. Well-sponsored teams and rich governments pay top-end scientists and engineers to shape their skis, perfect their skates, tighten their suits, measure their gravitational pull.

I'm no luddite, but this seems to make these sports more about who can afford the best tech, and less about the true spirit of the games: bringing the best athletes from all countries together to compete. How can it be about the athletes, when some of the best athletes may never win due to lack of funding/tech?"

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  • (Score: 0, Offtopic) by Gaaark on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:33PM

    by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:33PM (#1827) Journal

    I'd have something witty to say here, but I'm just tired.

    Going to bed.

    Thanks for commenting. :)

    --
    --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by hatta on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:34PM

    by hatta (879) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:34PM (#1828)

    How do car racers deal with this problem?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:35PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:35PM (#1832)

      Depends. Do you define them as athletes?

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by SleazyRidr on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:40PM

      by SleazyRidr (882) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:40PM (#1834)

      Well: there's two ways:

      The Formula1 way: it's an expensive sport, so if you don't want to spend the money don't play. In Formula1 there are only a few people who have a chance at winning because everyone else is in a slower car.

      The Nascar way: the restrictions are tight enough that everyone is basically driving the same car.

      Bonus LeMons way: limit of $X that you can spend on the car, in some classes there is the rule that you must sell your car to anyone with the cash if you win.

      Even in sports with no equipment, athletes from stronger programs will have had much better opportunities to train and have been able to devote more time to it. There's really no way to keep a level playing field at the highest levels.

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by VLM on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:55PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:55PM (#1854)

        "Bonus LeMons way: limit of $X that you can spend on the car, in some classes there is the rule that you must sell your car to anyone with the cash if you win."

        This is, or was, how it was done in amateur sailboat racing. Do whatever the heck you want to your boat, but you must be prepared to sell your boat to any other competitor for $10K (or whatever) at any time or be DQ out of the race.

        When I was a kid helping crew a neighbors glorious ship (3 meter dingy, really) it was more like $2K but I'm sure inflation, etc. Also middle class people could and did own lakefront property back then but now that would be a $10M house so I'm sure limits are higher in amateur competitive sailing.

        The obvious solution, in a world of immigration and migration, is some sort of slave market for Olympic athletes, much like the american pro ball players drafts and the like. If you really want a Swedish skier or whatever, just buy one at a fixed price from someone who may or may not be "cheating"

        • (Score: 1) by mhajicek on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:03PM

          by mhajicek (51) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:03PM (#1911)

          According to my dad this was also the case with certain motorcycle racing classes in his day. That was also a time when a competitor would lend you a tool or give you a part you needed just out of camaraderie.

          --
          The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
          • (Score: 2, Interesting) by andrew on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:44PM

            by andrew (755) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:44PM (#1995)

            I've seen (on TV) this sort of tool lending, help each other out spirit of camaraderie happen still during the 2014 Dakar Rally. Competing teams and racers stopping to help extricate stuck vehicles or assist in repairs. So those days aren't completely gone, but the Dakar Rally is kind of unique.

      • (Score: 1) by ragequit on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:15PM

        by ragequit (44) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:15PM (#1873) Journal

        I'd go with the NASCAR way, and the SPEC car races like CART/IROC. Even one more. You are issued equipment before the event (like 5 minutes before). It's supposed to be about the athlete not the gear.

        --
        The above views are fabricated for your reading pleasure.
        • (Score: 1) by dilbert on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:28PM

          by dilbert (444) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:28PM (#1882)
          Ideally, this would work, but you'd leave yourself open to the accusations of the equipment being tampered with in subtle ways.
          • (Score: 1) by tftp on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:41PM

            by tftp (806) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:41PM (#1991) Homepage

            Not just that. It would be very valuable to familiarize yourself with that "standard" equipment ahead of the competition. For example, all the rifles may be the same... but you need to know that with cold barrel they shoot 1/2" lower; or if you pull on the sling with 30N this will affect the aim point by another 1/2" ... Not everyone would be allowed to learn those details; those who do learn will have a large advantage.

      • (Score: 1) by JeanCroix on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:31PM

        by JeanCroix (573) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:31PM (#1886)
        There's also the dirt track way: "run what ya brung," and don't spend more on the car than you can earn by racing it.
      • (Score: 1) by mojo chan on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:34PM

        by mojo chan (266) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:34PM (#2021)

        In F1 the richer teams are obliged to help out the less well off ones. It doesn't put them on an equal footing by any means but it keeps them competitive.

        --
        const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
      • (Score: 2) by cykros on Wednesday February 19 2014, @01:11AM

        by cykros (989) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @01:11AM (#2063)
        Even in sports with no equipment, athletes from stronger programs will have had much better opportunities to train and have been able to devote more time to it. There's really no way to keep a level playing field at the highest levels. Well, given that, it gives us a little bit of a frame for what the Olympic contests ACTUALLY are: a competition between various social structures/economies/societies testing their aptitude where it comes to producing athletes that can compete at a world scale. It would seem to follow from winning that said society is capable perhaps of doing other things better than others...or of course that they prioritize these contests over the wellbeing of their population. What it isn't, though, is quite the more ego-centered sporting event that it gets marketed as, which should be obvious given the way athletes are sponsored, either by private companies as in the US, or through government aid, either of which ALWAYS comes with strings attached.

        For those perhaps not aware of how the training and other preparation is financed, and how that tends to play out, it would probably be worth perusing Why the Olympics Are a Lot Like 'The Hunger Games' [thenation.com] by former Olympian Samantha Retrosi.
    • (Score: 5, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:25PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:25PM (#1981)

      A computer analogy might help.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by nukkel on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:35PM

    by nukkel (168) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:35PM (#1829)

    As a scientist, you stand on the shoulders of giants.

    As an athlete, you need to outdo all the giants that came before you.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by KritonK on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:49PM

      by KritonK (465) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:49PM (#1846)

      Actually, as an athlete, you need only outdo the athletes with whom you are competing. There is no need to break any record, which is apparently all that seems to matter these days.

    • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:38PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:38PM (#1888)

      betabeta

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by mindriot on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:47PM

      by mindriot (928) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:47PM (#1898)

      That's why I hope that as we slowly converge towards the human physical limit in various sports disciplines, we will learn to switch to "Year's Best"/"Decade Best" type records instead of drooling at all-time World Records.

      --
      soylent_uid=$(echo $slash_uid|cut -c1,3,5)
    • (Score: 1) by mojo chan on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:44PM

      by mojo chan (266) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:44PM (#2027)

      Athletes stand on the shoulders of giants even more so. Their genes are the product of untold thousands of generations before them. The techniques they use, the training they do and the equipment they have was all developed by those who came before them. That's why people can still break records in things like foot races where if it were simply down to hard work the record would have been set decades ago and never touched. As training and equipment (shoes) improve humans become capable of running faster.

      --
      const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by GeminiDomino on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:35PM

    by GeminiDomino (661) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:35PM (#1830)

    Maybe I'm just a crotchety old prick, but AFAIC, the "true spirit of the games" ceased to exist years ago, when the IOC and its nation-based demon-spawn started throwing lawyers around. Just like every other major sporting spectacle (and just about everything else, apparently), it's about ego and cash.

    --
    "We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture"
    • (Score: 1) by janrinok on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:40PM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:40PM (#1835) Journal

      Where are my mod points when I need them +1! Insightful

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by caffeine on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:11PM

      by caffeine (249) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:11PM (#1919)

      Agree 100%.

      I found I watched far more of the Paralympics in London than the actual games. They seemed to uphold the Olympic values far more than the able bodied athletes.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by O3K on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:23PM

      by O3K (963) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:23PM (#1928)

      Let me wax Godwinistic: the 1936 Summer Olympics (the first televised Olympics, in addition) weren't about ego and cash?

    • (Score: 1) by bugamn on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:31PM

      by bugamn (1017) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:31PM (#2477)

      As someone said, if the important part is to compete, why keep score?

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Covalent on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:41PM

    by Covalent (43) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:41PM (#1837) Journal

    Professional golf and baseball have both resisted the urge to use new tech. Aluminum bats would make MLB hitting records obsolete in 1 season, as would new tech in supersized drivers and the like for golf.

    If the IOC wanted to level the playing field, they could institute standards like MLB and PGA have. In fact, if I remember correctly, they did do this with the swimming suits used in '08 in Beijing.

    Just draw the line at some point and say "This is OK, this is not" and let the world catch up.

    --
    You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by bungle on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:48PM

      by bungle (1370) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:48PM (#1843)

      Or make everyone use the same equipment...

      • (Score: 5, Funny) by Vanderhoth on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:07PM

        by Vanderhoth (61) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:07PM (#1868)

        Here's your jockstrap, I'll need it back for the 1:30 game.

        Sorry I know what you meant, but couldn't resist a little fun.

        --
        "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
      • (Score: 1) by buswolley on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:17PM

        by buswolley (848) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:17PM (#1875)

        ... except I'd randomize to two conditions (with tech, without tech). Then we could measure the impact of science.

        --
        subicular junctures
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:08PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:08PM (#1916)

      Even then, the rich and resourceful countries will have an advantage over the one's that are starving for the basic necessities. What about nutrition and training programs that the rich can afford, but poor cannot?

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Kawumpa on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:33PM

      by Kawumpa (1187) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:33PM (#1988)

      This works only in the sports where there isn't a huge sporting goods industry attached, at least from a sponsor's point of view. Snowboarding and skiing are for the masses, so improvements in technology can and will be marketed, because everyone wants to have what Lindsey Vonn or Marcel Hirscher run on. That's not so much the case in say biathlon or ski jumping. Nevertheless, equipment is only one part of the equation, medical support, training regimes and facilities are others. So even if the equipment playing field would be levelled, rich countries or rich sports federations will always have an advantage, especially when it comes to youth programs, spotting and nurturing young talent. I would argue that this is the case in baseball and golf too.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Paradise Pete on Wednesday February 19 2014, @11:02AM

      by Paradise Pete (1806) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @11:02AM (#2326)

      Professional golf and baseball have both resisted the urge to use new tech.

      Golf tech, while it has some strict limits, such as a maximum CoR for clubheads, is way beyond what it was not very many years ago. Players now hit the ball *much* farther and straighter than they used to be able to, and control the spin and trajectory in ways players never would have imagined.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by DECbot on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:42PM

    by DECbot (832) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:42PM (#1838) Journal

    ...until my fat ass can start beating serious athletes. Before then, it's fair game.

    --
    cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:45PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:45PM (#1840)

    I'm unimpressed with the handwringing about tech.

    You're taking a living human being and removing them from the academic, art, social, educational, and economic world, basically because a bunch of people think it would be cool to see how fast a dude can run or some other twitching muscle idiocy.

    Given that you're basically sacrificing a human life to create an athlete, worrying about the cost of some pills or whatever just makes the folks doing the worrying look like inhuman monsters. Go back to fighting dogs and roosters, at least you can eat the carcass when the fun's over. Well, technically you could eat the carcass of an Olympic athlete but the meat will likely be tough and stringy, best slow cook for a long time.

    "You've created a monster" "well yeah but all in good fun, see the real problem is the leash is real expensive" "Yeah, but... uh, you created a monster out of a person... icky"

    In some ways gladiatorial combat is more respectable to the humanity of the participants, at least combat is a "useful" skill. Olympic events are more disrespectful of the participants humanity, more like pulling a wing off a bug to see if it can still fly or whatever. Hey you, human being over there, your only worth to humanity is how high you can jump. Icky!

    The worst part is ruining all those lives as a voyeuristic lure such that multinational megacorps can sell people stuff they can't afford and don't want so they can impress people who don't actually care.

    Other than that, yeah I just loves me my Olympics.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:01PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:01PM (#1859)

      "You're taking a living human being and removing them from the academic, art, social, educational, and economic world, basically because a bunch of people think it would be cool to see how fast a dude can run or some other twitching muscle idiocy."

      Man, somebody was always picked last for kickball teams.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:11PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:11PM (#1870)

        Oh you bring up a good point, I'm totally cool with social interaction, burn off some stress, general health benefits of exercise. A little hand eye coordination and some sweat never hurt anybody. I don't hate sports at all.

        But its a whole nother thing to rip a person out of the society they used to be a part of, reduce their worth as a human being to a number on a tape measure, finally throw the carcass away and get another when no longer useful to generate a number on a tape measure or pimp some advertising dollars using their bodies. We treat livestock better and they're not even human. Now that's the specific part of "sports" that I'm not a huge fan of.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19 2014, @09:53AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19 2014, @09:53AM (#2291)

          I did not know that people went to jail for refusing to be athletes.

    • (Score: 1) by krishnoid on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:23PM

      by krishnoid (1156) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:23PM (#1876)

      Given that you're basically sacrificing a human life to create an athlete

      That's not true -- afterwards they return to normal life [theonion.com].

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by tlezer on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:24PM

      by tlezer (708) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:24PM (#1877)

      I don't think the athlete is the bad person here. The have a skill(perhaps you don't appreciate it, but others do) and they want to compete. End of story.

      Regarding the tech, I agree only to the extent that the tech is used IN COMPETITION but not all athletes have the same opportunity. That is, if some biathlon athletes are using more accurate guns than others, then it isn't about the individual anymore and dilutes.

      However, for training, I'm all for using any and all tech(well, not banned substances) that is possible to maximize training. Complaining about this is like complaining that one sprinter/runner used stop watch to determine which starting stance was better for them and therefore the race isn't fair anymore. Of course it's fair, but one trained smarter.

      In the end, organized sports should elevate the strong athletes to the levels where they can benefit from the better tech.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:55PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:55PM (#1954)

        I don't think the athlete is bad either, although I think the net effect on society of the situation is negative. Your first argument was not very convincing, by analogy with a natural born pickpocket, that's a very interesting skill, but if its a net negative to society, eliminate it. Sucks to have a skill thats bad for society.

        WRT training tech we also disagree. There is a ten or so million dollar official Olympic athlete training facility visible from my commute, paid for (in part) of course by my tax dollars. If we drop ten million bucks for training, because we can, or at least we took out the loans and did it anyway, "its only fair" that Somalian athletes get perhaps ten thousand bucks of roids to even up the competition.

        Originally the Olympics was about hanging out together as a culture, then it died out for a couple centuries, then it was reborn into some nationalistic competition where our side of the cold war was all about the individual over collectivism so it somehow warped into individualism worship, now its all about the corporate licensing and advertising and in the background between commercials someone is sweating or something, but whats really important is who's selling the official olympic french fry. I don't think it would be a problem if it evolved yet again and became a team effort, where in a biathlon the athlete, gunsmith, and pharmacological biochemist are all equally important. You want better performance enhancing drugs? Well try fully funding your national university system and creating some STEM jobs not just STEM students/grads and it'll take care of itself, that sounds fair enough.

        Another peculiarity of the games has been the dramatic shift from nationalism to I guess you'd call it geneticism or something. Currently there's a fixation as part of the Olympics with making sure everyone lives up to the peak that genetics allows, which is not historical at all. Fifty years ago if the Jamaicans can't train for the bobsled, well, I guess it just sucks to be a Jamaican bobsled driver. Not the modern "we need to move heaven and earth so everyone gets an equal chance at a participation trophy". Would we really lose anything or change anything if we just said "Can't afford a decent biochemist? No? Well, sucks to be you, guess you're not winning." and moved on with life. We're talking about a trivial medal, not basic health care or some other fundamental human right.

        Thats another mystery, in the USA is long standing policy "Can't afford medical care? Well have a nice death LOL" but if some foreigner can't afford the roids we give to our own guys, we have a handwringing panic attack about how to make it "fair". I'm not very impressed. Someone out there doesn't have health insurance so in a brave show of solidarity I'll not put a bandaid on my paper cut, that'll really change the world.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by koreanbabykilla on Wednesday February 19 2014, @12:44AM

        by koreanbabykilla (968) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @12:44AM (#2051)

        I dont see why you care about banned substances. I say bring on the superhuman athletes. I might even watch some superhumans play some sport a few times. Probably still wouldnt watch a superhuman bowler.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by EnsilZah on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:42PM

      by EnsilZah (918) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:42PM (#1891)

      Who is this 'you' that's removing them from all these aspects of life?
      Sure they might show some aptitude early in life and they might feel pressure to perform, but you could argue the same about a musician or a mathematician who'd have a slightly different set of tradeoffs.
      Ultimately it's an adult person's own choices and priorities.
      I'd like to think these athletes find a form of personal expression in their chosen field, at least as much as I have in ones I've enjoyed as an amateur.

      With that said, I personally have no interest in watching sports, I have no interest in who wins what, and from what I gather the IOC are a bunch of litigious assholes.
      And these debates about performance-enhancing-whatever seem silly to me, it's just a set of rules that someone made up and anyone who's playing to win will try to reach the limits of.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by lubricus on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:49PM

    by lubricus (232) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:49PM (#1845)

    Why is it that Australia can field 60 winter Olympians while all of Africa is fielding 3 or 4, despite the greater latitudinal range of Africa? Why is it that non-technological sports like marathon have so many winners from poorer African countries? The Olympics have always favored richer countries, and the newer events like slopestyle will dramatically favor rich western countries.

    --
    ... sorry about the typos
    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by mwvdlee on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:54PM

      by mwvdlee (169) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:54PM (#1853)

      But is this actually a problem that needs to be solved?
      I don't mean "should poverty be solved", I think most of us would agree that it should.
      But rather "should the winter olympics' selection of events be adjusted to accomodate poorer countries"?
      Which events could be added?

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by lubricus on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:03PM

        by lubricus (232) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:03PM (#1862)

        I agree that this is something that will be difficult to "solve", mainly I was pointing out that the disproportionate effect of tech on olympics is not new, and that the winter olympics are pretty lame... especially since they are a collection of events devised by rich western countries specifically for their climate or military (the biathalon for example).

        If this were something we wanted to rectify, we would stop adding more and more complicated derivatives of existing events events (team skating, ice dancing?), and add more events focusing on individuals with minimal equipment. (the track and field events come to mind).

        --
        ... sorry about the typos
      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:16PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:16PM (#1874)

        "But is this actually a problem that needs to be solved?"

        AKA the old argument "we need more girls working with computers, so they can suffer like the rest of us and then get outsourced and downsized". Note that WRT "positive" occupations, nobody ever whines about the lack of male nurses or lack of male hooters restaurant waitresses, you only hear this kind of thing about TPS report authors and the like.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:10PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:10PM (#1971)

      Money plays a big part, and so does a country's financial support for a program: the more people you have practicing one sport - think of the Dutch speed skating program - the more likely you are to find the ones who excel at that sport). There may be a third reason why countries like Ethiopia can be top contenders in a discipline like the marathon: genetics.

      Africans may have bodies that are better suited for long distance running. Whites or Asians may have bodies better suited for other disciplines. None of these people are better than other races, they just happen to be better at one or two things. But you'll never hear this discussed, because liberals like to tar and feather anyone who points out genetic differences, instead of accepting these differences and admitting that they may play a role.

      • (Score: 1) by SMI on Wednesday February 19 2014, @09:07PM

        by SMI (333) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @09:07PM (#2859)

        This reminds me of the Tarahumara [wikipedia.org] in the mountains of northern Mexico. Young and old, male and female, are all able to run ridiculous distances. I've even heard as much as 435 miles in just over 48 hours.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by siwelwerd on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:48AM

      by siwelwerd (946) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:48AM (#2105)

      Saw an interesting graph in an article this evening: Medal count per GDP. In some crude sense, it puts richer and poorer countries on equal footing. Second graph in this link: http://thefischbowl.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-new-n clb-no-curler-left-behind.html [blogspot.com]

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by krishnoid on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:49PM

    by krishnoid (1156) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:49PM (#1847)

    How can it be about the athletes, when some of the best athletes may never win due to lack of funding/tech?

    How can winning be about the athletes at all for some competitions, when 'winning' is measured in centimeters or fractions of a second? Can anything about being an 'athlete' be measured in that small an amount?

    I have to think that the focus should move towards more qualitative depictions of 'athleticism', and (within some error margin) less about 'winning' these measured events.

    • (Score: 1) by KritonK on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:56PM

      by KritonK (465) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:56PM (#1856)

      "Winning" is the problem.

      When the modern Olympic games were originally established, they were all about participation [wikipedia.org]. These days, however, they are all about winning.

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by VLM on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:59PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:59PM (#1858)

        Minor mistake, they're all about purchasing "rights" and running a profit by selling advertising.

        • (Score: 1) by Cactus on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:06PM

          by Cactus (32) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:06PM (#1867) Journal

          Oh, don't be like that. What's the point of international competition if someone can't pay retarded amounts of cash to be the official french fry of the winter games? /sarcasm

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by scruffybeard on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:11PM

        by scruffybeard (533) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:11PM (#1871)

        I am not sure the participation element has ever gone away. I saw on TV earlier this week footage of the athletes from a skiing event signing each-others jerseys. Comradery and sportsmanship are still a major factor here. Plus, would you want to see an Olympic athlete just show up? Or do you want them to do their very best to win? I think we all would feel cheated if the guy in first place held back because he knew the others couldn't keep up. Doing your best at this level means trying to win.

        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by KritonK on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:14PM

          by KritonK (465) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:14PM (#1922)

          No, I wouldn't want to see an Olympic athlete just show up. However, I did get to admire an athlete, in a long distance race, quite a few years ago, who, even though she must have realized that she was way out of her competitors' league, she did not give up. She gave it her best, and barely made it to the finish line, staggering, long after the others had crossed it, collapsing after crossing the finish line herself. That is participation! Remember: participation is not just a matter of signing up in a list of participants. You have to qualify to compete with the best, so getting your name in that list is a major achievement in itself. Even if you finish last, nobody can take that away from you.

          These days we have "hares", who will sprint for a couple of rounds then quit, supposedly to make the others run faster and break the record, even though they all know that they needn't bother to match the hare's pace.

          If we need to argue whether Pierre de Coubertin's quote, that I mentioned earlier, is correct or not, then obviously we deserve what we get with the modern version of the Olympic games.

    • (Score: 1) by forsythe on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:49PM

      by forsythe (831) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:49PM (#1900)

      Can anything about being an 'athlete' be measured in that small an amount?

      Most comments here are about technical benefits to the athletes, but I might care a little more than I do about sports, personally, if the measurement standards were regressed into the past a little bit. I really wouldn't mind losing the high-speed cameras, instant replay, that sort of thing. If the referee really can't call who gets over the line first, just say "Too close to call". If that results in consistent sixteen-way ties for first place, then there's something else very, very wrong going on that instant replay cameras won't fix.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by guanxi on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:54PM

    by guanxi (934) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:54PM (#1852)

    There's another technology that determines the outcome, performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Just like the other technologies mentioned, it reduces athletic competition to who has the best R&D.

    We may not know for years which athletes who win tonight use PEDs; we may never know. Many people know this, but they keep watching.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:03PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:03PM (#1863)

      It never fails to amuse me if you substitute in "nutrition" for "drugs" then the freakout disappears although the situation is no different.

      The idea that extreme athlete nutrition is inherently healthy for the body seems as unlikely as extreme athlete drugs are inherently healthy for the body...

      • (Score: 1) by Darth Turbogeek on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:32PM

        by Darth Turbogeek (1073) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:32PM (#1986)

        Plus extreme athlete nutrition sounds like it could be marketed for hundreds of dollars to kids and parents. It probably is already and it probably is as harmful as a vial of Lance Armstrong's best go juice

        Which was also hidden as extreme nutrition and is likely to have caused his original cancer.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by FrogBlast on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:56PM

    by FrogBlast (21) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:56PM (#1855)

    One problem is that we're now able to measure things almost perfectly, and record them forever. People want world records, but there's a point at which it simply isn't physically possible for a normal human body to improve on existing records. If nobody broke a single record over a fifty-year span, I think the Olympics would start to feel a little awkward. Like every other area of life, people have come to expect constant and everlasting improvement, and it's just not physically possible without some form of "cheating".

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by tlezer on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:22PM

      by tlezer (708) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:22PM (#1926)

      "there's a point at which it simply isn't physically possible for a normal human body to improve on existing records"

      Maybe this is true, but we're not there yet, precisely because of technology. We are constantly seeing improved training techniques as we learn more about how the body reacts to different training based on feedback from technology and results. An additional factor affecting this is the ability for athletes to specialize. We start training younger, focusing on specific sports, with enhanced training. The records are going to continue to fall for a long time, IMHO.

    • (Score: 1) by acid andy on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:24AM

      by acid andy (1683) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:24AM (#2119) Homepage Journal

      I think you're right in so far as one person who is a genetic outlier can theoretically fluke a result that is almost impossible to beat for many decades and the scope for legitimately improving techniques becomes narrower and narrower as it's already so heavily optimized.

      But technology can help with the more and more accurate timings and measurements. If someone only has to beat the existing record by a few nanoseconds or a few micrometres then the records can theoretically still get beaten - just by smaller and smaller amounts as they get closer to those theoretical limits.

      --
      Master of the science of the art of the science of art.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by scruffybeard on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:58PM

    by scruffybeard (533) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:58PM (#1857)

    I recall that when the "shark skin" suit was introduced in 2000 (or 2004), that they were freely made available to all competitors. I have no problem with technology of this sort, but it should be made available to everyone if possible. That being said, sometimes the sport is more than just about the athlete's body. Bobsledding comes to mind here. Teams spend a lot of time honing the design of their sled. This has become a part of the sport.

    In my opinion, if the sport is a competition between my brawn and yours, then the technology benefits of one team should be shared with all, otherwise let it remain a team secret.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by tlezer on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:42PM

      by tlezer (708) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:42PM (#1947)

      This is an interesting example. As I recall, we saw a lot of world records fall during the games and trials leading up to it, a common underlying factor being the increased uptake in these suits. But then they were banned. Why? I think this was an example where the tech fundamentally changed the sport, eliminating some of the naturally discriminating factors such as buoyancy and how high swimmers rode in the water. The suits were certainly available to everyone, and you could choose to use them or not, but choosing not to use them put you at a disadvantage. I'm glad the sport banned them.

      Interestingly, despite high bars and world records set by athletes wearing those suits in those years, many of those records have fallen since by athletes who didn't benefit from that tech.

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by r00t on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:06PM

    by r00t (1349) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:06PM (#1866)

    To truly understand how far the Olympics have come from their humble beginnings one needs to consider the following:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/fivering_circ us/2014/02/first_winter_olympics_what_skaters_ski_ jumpers_and_curlers_looked_like_in.html [slate.com]

    I can't help but think about how synthesized and commercialized the Olympics (Ok, sporting events in general) have become and consequently this is the reason I give less f#cks about them each year.

  • (Score: 1) by duvel on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:13PM

    by duvel (1496) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:13PM (#1872)

    I understand the view of it being unfair, that having superior financial and technical means increases your odds for success in the Olympics.

    On the other hand, considering that most of us reading this site are probably more familiar with advanced technology than with advanced (or even rudimentary) competitive sports, one could say that winners created by technological superiority are (finally) a way for us nerds to have a positive impact on sports. If a bobsled race is won in the wind-tunnel, rather than by the team pushing and driving the sled, we may finally start dreaming about earning respect (and salaries) on the level that currently only professional athletes have.

    Yes, I know, 'start dreaming'.

    --
    This Sig is under surveilance by the NSA
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by carguy on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:27PM

      by carguy (568) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:27PM (#1931)

      Going back to the early thread on car racing, even in NASCAR there is a great deal of engineering behind the scenes. While the cars are controlled very carefully to be similar, most of the winners come from a few top teams. These are the teams with large engineering staffs (50-100 engineers). The same teams also receive engineering assistance from the car manufacturers.

      Watching from the inside (as a nerd), it does get a little frustrating when the NASCAR marketing does its very best to hide or deny the effect that engineering has on the results. But we do have a big effect on the outcomes.

      Back to your bobsled example, the US bobsleds have had a lot of input from Geoff Bodine, a NASCAR driver who brought in his engineer friends to help.

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by tanqueray on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:29PM

    by tanqueray (291) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:29PM (#1883)

    Some US speed skaters seem to think the latest and greatest technology is actually slowing them down. So are the US athletes behind the curve or the US scientists and engineers?

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB100014240527 02304703804579381002780722432 [wsj.com]

    • (Score: 1) by Solaarius on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:25AM

      by Solaarius (127) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:25AM (#2120)

      Maybe they only wind-tunnel tested the tighter suits on mannequins?

      "But it worked so well in the lab!"

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by bucc5062 on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:44PM

    by bucc5062 (699) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:44PM (#1894)
    When the Olympics overtly opened the door and allowed true professionals into the Games, it stopped being the Olympics. Once this happened then corporate sponsorship became the new ruler with the athletes just being the tool to build advertising.

    This then drives the technology for it is now not about the athlete (the vehicle), but the technology created by such and such company or from such and such country. How to monetize for maximum profit. Take that away and you just have human beings again and from a TV/entertainment viewpoint, how boring is that?!

    I'm done with the Olympics. Either it reverts back to the Amateur status that had its flaws*, but provided a platform for lesser known to shine, or it ends. Riff with corruption, a blight on most cities financially, it is a just another stop along the way for professional athletes, sandwiched between this or that world sporting event. In the sport I'm involved in (Eventing) I watch the same people that ran in the London Olympics run at Rolex, Burhley, Badmitton, Pau, etc etc. As it is, most of the courses were more challenging then the Olympic course so what makes it special, its run every four years?

    To point, when it was more amateur, there was a possibility a rider and one horse combination could climb high enough, put the sweat, tears, and blood to get on course and maybe podium. Today, most riders have million dollar strings of horses, will buy a horse inside a year before the Games that is "ready made", and when done, move the horse on and get a new one. Good riders who don't have the capital to burn lose out and eventually stop trying. I'd love to see a rule that simply stated, if you medaled in an Olympic Game, you are banned from competing in the same sport again. Then it would mean something.

    * state sponsor athletes being the biggest issue.
    --
    The more things change, the more they look the same
    • (Score: 1) by istartedi on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:02PM

      by istartedi (123) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:02PM (#1907) Journal

      How do you solve the Jim Thorpe [wikipedia.org]
      problem? There was a guy who had one little fly in the ointment with respect to amateur
      standing. They stripped his medals. The problem of requiring amateur status back then
      was the same problem as unpaid internships today. The children of the wealthy can afford
      to be amateur athletes at the Olympics, or unpaid interns at Goldman Sachs. Poor people?
      Not so much.

      • (Score: 1) by bucc5062 on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:24AM

        by bucc5062 (699) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:24AM (#2096)

        It is not perfect, but it still was better then the two tier system we have where the haves (Professionals) get the attention and the have nots (amateurs) do not. I had to read about Jim Thorpe (thank you for the reference), and don't see the issue. The Olympics (in 1912) had strict rules, he admitted to taking money for playing baseball, they stripped him correctly. It serves my point that the Olympics should be for amateurs. After he was "outed" he wound up with a great career as a professional.

        This is why while we can talk about the technology, it is the money that drives...corrupts the event.

        --
        The more things change, the more they look the same
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by tlezer on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:30PM

      by tlezer (708) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:30PM (#1932)

      I dislike the filtering and productization(is that a word?) that the networks and sponsors effect on the games. Some sports are more affected than others, but I think it is unfair to throw all athletes into a collective bin of 'professional shills' or 'products of corporate greed'. It think there are a great many personal sacrifices and examples of individuals who compete in the original spirit of the game. We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    • (Score: 1) by hubie on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:20PM

      by hubie (1068) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:20PM (#2470) Journal

      In one aspect the opening of the Olympics to professional athletes has leveled the playing field. For decades the amateur status of some countries, particularly the Cold War "Eastern Bloc" countries, was a joke. A good deal of the athletes were technically amateurs, but in practice were professionals. That is all they did was be state-sponsored athletes. Cuba's greatest boxer, Teófilo Stevenson, won gold medals at the '72, '76, and '80 Olympics, and probably would have won them in '84 and '88 if Cuba didn't boycott those. He was so good for so long because that was his full-time job.

      It still happens today. I heard on the curling broadcast that the Chinese team spends all their time in Canada curling against the best Canadian teams, so that is their full-time job. I don't know how the Canadians or Brits or whatnot does it, but the players on the US team have full-time jobs and can only practice on weekends and evenings, and this is true of many of the athletes.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by gordo on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:52PM

    by gordo (1169) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:52PM (#1902)

    You standardize the skis, skates, suit and whatever else... The IOC could have manufacturers bid to be the sole provider of equipment for each Olympic sport and all that would vary is graphic design for each team.

    Sure, some athletes would complain, but at least you'd get back to an apples to apples comparison.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:04PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:04PM (#1912)

    Jack Mehoff

  • (Score: 1) by No Respect on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:20PM

    by No Respect (991) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:20PM (#1925)
    When you consider the Olympics are all about money then perhaps it will make more sense to you. The sporting events themselves and, to a lesser degree, the athletes, are just visual eyecandy in something that is a huge and corrupt business. Of course those with more resources are going to look for every edge that gives them 0.00001 seconds advantage over the next guy. You don't want to be a loser, do you? The companies that assist in these endeavours proudly trumpet their achievments in shameless self-aggrandizement.

    Seek out the corporate spin doctoring being done by the people who designed the super-secret US speedskaters' high tech uniforms. It's very instructive.

    The Olympics don't need technology to "ruin" the games. That has already been accomplished by other means over the last 3 decades or so.
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Doogman on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:49PM

    by Doogman (1299) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:49PM (#1949)

    Just grease 'em up with olive oil and let 'em run around nekkid like the first Olympians. Probably do wonders for the ratings.

    Might be a bit rough for the winter games, however.

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:27PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:27PM (#1984)

      Women's volleyball might break the internet.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Hyper on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:54PM

    by Hyper (1525) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:54PM (#1952)

    It is time for a new olympics where anyone can compete with minimal restrictions for the sole purpose of breaking records at any cost with any means.

    Go the performance enhancing drugs. Bring on the shark suits. Let us see how far humanity can excel.

    • (Score: 1) by Appalbarry on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:41AM

      by Appalbarry (66) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:41AM (#2129) Journal

      I've said this for a very long time. Accept the fact that virtually everyone in the O-games is juiced up and give them free rein.

      I read a great article a few years ago about the Tour de France and doping. [theguardian.com] To make a long and fascinating story short, some form of drug use has been part of bike racing for a century at least, beginning with riders knocking back brandy while riding, then stuff like benzedrine, then onwards to steroids and blood doping.

      Tales of riders seeking chemical assistance began to make the news in the 1920s when brothers Francis and Henri Pélissier (the 1923 Tour winner) boasted to a journalist that they had "cocaine to go in our eyes, chloroform for our gums, and do you want to see the pills? We keep going on dynamite. In the evenings we dance around our rooms instead of sleeping."

  • (Score: 1) by KibiByte on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:35PM

    by KibiByte (1024) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:35PM (#2022)

    Since WWII, we've had this kind of prejudice built into the games.

    Newer F1 racers now have much tighter fuel requirements and design specs for aerodynamics as of this year.

    Shit changes due to records set from prior games, and thus we need to advance in that way to win by the rules.

    Fortunately, in this case, the F1 racers use lower amounts of fuel per mile with the new design change.

    Otherwise I'd be totally against it.

    --
    The One True Unit UID
  • (Score: 1) by pgc on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:35PM

    by pgc (1600) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:35PM (#2023)

    They're just jealous that the dutch own them all at scating. :-P

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:10AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:10AM (#2163)

      Of course, Scat and the Dutch go hand in hand

  • (Score: 1) by east coast on Wednesday February 19 2014, @12:42AM

    by east coast (1625) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @12:42AM (#2050)

    The olympics are ruining the olympics

    --
    Dedicated Cthulhu Cultist since 5423 BC.
  • (Score: 2) by combatserver on Wednesday February 19 2014, @01:16AM

    by combatserver (38) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @01:16AM (#2066)

    I can't help but think of Larry Ellison as soon as I saw the summary.

    http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/08/larry-ell ison-americas-cup-team-oracle-explainer [motherjones.com]

    At some point, the sport itself stops being the focus--marketing soon eclipses that which is being marketed.

    --
    I hope I can change this later...
  • (Score: 1) by lajos on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:01AM

    by lajos (528) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:01AM (#2080)

    Under Armour, with the greatest minds of NASA, made some rocket science fastest ever race suits for the US speed skating team.

    How did that work out? The US speed skating team sucked monkey balls, not produced a single medal so far.

    Or look at skiing. It's not like the teams/nations with the deepest pockets ended up on top.

    Sure, there are some sports where tech matters a lot. But not this winter olympics.

  • (Score: 1) by CowboyTeal on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:19AM

    by CowboyTeal (15) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @02:19AM (#2091)

    The Olympics turned political quite quick after its inception and it was intended to show the strength of one's nation rather than the truth of the people that live there. The Olympics aren't about the best athletes competing in the world, far from it. Every record ever made in the Olympics can easily be broken by someone that has has no interest in participating but is much better at it. Today the Olympics is more than just a political tool but rather a tool to make money and lots of it if you can get the Olympics to be hosted by your country or even by winning. The tech used into creating these new skis and clothes are sold and make more money.But at the end, people tend to not care about this but just stare at the contest like zombies. I never cared much about the Olympics and I doubt I ever will unless there's an off-branch of superhuman Olympics where humans can use tech, "stim packs" and so forth to step the competition up to the next level where everyone has to wear the same suits, and equipments instead of competing for technology.

    --
    Getting siggy with it.
  • (Score: 1) by anonymouse on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:37AM

    by anonymouse (910) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:37AM (#2127)

    All the good athletes will still be snapped up by the rich countries. It's a problem for poor countries sure, but it'll still be the most talented athletes - regardless of where they're from.

    Ugh! Capitalism sucks!

  • (Score: 1) by engblom on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:46AM

    by engblom (556) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:46AM (#2169)

    If everybody were forced to use the very same kind of equipment provided by the arranger of the event, all athletes would be on the same level. If this would be true, the equipment would not even need to be particular expensive. If the equipment is slowing down the athletes comparing the latest high tech, it is doing so for all of them.

    There is another much more serious problem: What to do with all taking drugs to get better result? The tests will always be behind and those with most money to put into drugs will have such that are not detected yet.