The 2012 Olympic games begin in London in about three weeks. Despite over 100 years of competition, each Olympic competition still brings great leaps forward in athletic achievement. Runners shave tenths of seconds off their sprints, marksmen become more accurate and javelin throwers throw even farther.
Professor Steve Haake, the director of the Centre for Sports Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, wrote about the advances in the Olympics for the current issue of Physics World. He notes that the advances in each sport can be attributed to different factors.
In swimming, form-fitting aerodynamic suits caused a great increase in performance, though the suits will be banned for the 2012 Olympics. In running, technological advances that allowed officials to automatically measure time led to slower times being recorded, though in recent years we've seen a 'Usain Bolt effect' which has forced runners to increase their speed to keep up with the record-breaking Jamaican sprinter.
Steve Haake, director of the Centre for Sports Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. His article on technologies and athletic performance appears in the current issue of Physics World.