Sports

Highlighting high-tech at 2008 Games

China sees the Beijing Olympics as a ”coming out“ party.

So do many businesses, who view the Olympics as a perfect stage to unveil new or recently introduced products.

With the Games opening on 8/8/08, we offer eight innovations or redesigns that could affect Olympic results.

1a. Swimsuits

The days of nearly naked men slicing through Olympic waters are all but gone. There are still some competitors in the teeny-weeny briefs, but most of the stars — men and women — now prefer less-revealing, faster body suits.

Speedo, the most recognizable name in swimsuits of all types, unveiled its ”LZR Racer“ in February. The suit billed as ”the most technically advanced in the world,“ produced immediate results. One March weekend saw 13 world records by Speedo swimmers; by mid-June, the LZR world-record tally was 38 (19 long course, 19 short course).

Of course, skeptics are plenty, and the sport's elite have custom-fitted suits.

Speedo says the LZR's many bonuses include 4 percent faster starts, sprints and turns; 10 percent less ”passive drag“ than its 2004 model, Fastskin FSII; the first fully bonded body suit with ultrasonically welded seams; ”strategically placed panels“ to enhance a swimmer's form and so on. The suits are made of an ultra lightweight, low drag, water-repellent and fast-drying fabric unique to Speedo called LZR Pulse.

Having Michael Phelps in a LZR is not likely to hurt sales.

1b. Swimsuits

Speedo's competition includes Adidas, which has come out with the ”Techfit Powerweb“ suit.

A company description says the suit ”features Thermoplastic Urethane Powerbands anchored at key points around the suit, such as around the waist or above the knees. It is a development of the compression technology which Adidas introduced in 1998 with the world's first full body suit, subsequently worn by the legendary Ian Thorpe, who won five gold medals in it.“

The suit ”works in unison with muscles, helping them to function like springs.“ Power, improved ”oxygen delivery“ and less fatigue are among the benefits cited.

3. Cycling technology

SRM has launched its ”Wireless PowerMeter“ and ”PowerControl VI.“ In layman's terms — a super-sophisticated bicycle computer.

According to SRM's Leslie Klein, a 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympian in women's kayak, ”in addition to power, speed, heart rate, cadence, time, temperature and kilojoules of energy, the PCVI will also show altitude and feet or meters gained over a ride.“

American cyclists, including triathletes, will have the SRM equipment mounted on handlebars.

4. Equestrian boots

Riding boots have a whole new look in Nike's Ippeas (Greek for ”rider“).

No more leather boots with smooth wood soles, a style that has changed little since the 1800s.

Nike has introduced ”Zoom Air“ cushioning, rubber-padded outsoles to improve stirrup action and an adjustable titanium screw-in spur system (inspired by track spikes) that eliminates the need for additional hardware on the ankles.

Ippeas have a full-length zipper for easy on-and-off.

Finally, a thin, high-abrasion synthetic rubber material on the medial side of the boot improves grip on horse and saddle and boosts rider-horse communication.

5. Keeping cool

Like Speedo's LZR Racer, the Game Ready Cooling Vest incorporates NASA technology. The vest, which circulates ice and water, is designed for athletes who want to cool their bodies. Game Ready notes that the vest ”is also designed to keep surgeons comfortable during long and hot procedures.“

Competition includes Nike's PreCool Vest.

According to Nike, ”Since 25 percent of our body's total energy goes into moving muscle and 75 percent into regulating heat, reducing an athlete's core temperature before the marathon or a field hockey match means more energy for the competition itself.“

6. Seaworthy sunglasses

Shades can do more for sailors than just cool looks.

Polarized glasses by companies such as Kaenon and Oakley amplify contrasts. This helps sailors ”see“ the wind on the water, crucial to effective maneuvers.

7. Gotta be the shoes

Probably the most consistent competition for Olympic business comes from shoe companies. It seems that every four years, companies come up with a new ”super“ shoe. Nike's track collection for Beijing includes the paper-thin Flywire. Adidas, an official sponsor of the Games, has a full line of ”Made for Beijing“ equipment. New Balance, Puma, Pony and China's own Li Ning are among the others in the great shoe race.

8. Air apparent

(It's not easy being green)

In an effort to ease Beijing's chronic pollution, factories have been moved out of the city.

Many of the remaining factories will be shut down shortly before and during the Games. Great Britain's Telegraph quotes Liu Jingmin, deputy mayor of Beijing and executive vice president of the host city's Olympic Organizing Committee: ”Over the past few years, the city has moved 167 factories to more remote areas, while helping them with technical innovations to reduce emissions.“ Also, about half of Beijing's 3.5 million cars are supposed to be kept off the roads, and of city's estimated 16,000 coal-burning boilers, 15,000 have been upgraded to be less harmful to the environment.

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