Ball Talk with Brandon – Fair is fair: Olympics must regulate technological improvements

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Brandon Miramontes, Sports Editor

The Winter Olympics is known for being the most prestigious winter sports event to compete in; to earn a place at the Olympics, an athlete must work extremely hard — and work even harder to win — but the advancement in sports technology has led to an unfair advantage for those athletes from wealthy countries; this advantage must be balanced in order to uphold the values the Olympics stands for.

In economically advanced countries such as the United States, Great Britain and Norway, athletes are provided resources that enable them to have the best athletic attire and best training facilities. Teams of apparel scientists design top-of-the-line uniforms for athletes. These uniforms are specifically made to have less drag in order to give an athlete an edge such as team U.S.A.’s uniforms which were created by Spyder Active Sports Inc.; this suit is exceptionally aerodynamic to reduce drag and increase speed.

“There’s no way you’re going to get to the Olympics without technology,” Kim Blair, Ph.D., said in an interview with CNN. “It’s in the equipment, it’s in the apparel design, it’s in the training science.”

Blair is an apparel technologist who has worked with Olympic cyclists and skiers as a vice president at Cooper Perkins in Boston.

“In order to be competitive you have to have the top engineering talent and the top facilities working on your equipment,” he told CBS News.

Accompanying the advanced sports apparel used by athletes from wealthy countries, more advanced training facilities give an edge to athletes hailing from countries with stronger economies. Within the United States there are elite training facilities such as the World Arena Ice Hall in Colorado Springs, a facility for figure skaters and speed skaters, that provide advanced equipment and technology to produce the best athletes possible.

On the opposite end of countries like the United States are countries such as Mozambique and Senegal that cannot produce successful winter Olympians because of their lack of resources and training facilities. As a result of the lack of finances for winter sport training facilities a majority of the athletes from poorer countries migrate to more wealthy countries in order to train in advanced facilities, but those who stay in their poorer countries and miraculously make it to the winter Olympics are at a severe disadvantage.

Nepal’s cross-country skier Dachhiri Sherpa was unable to get the equipment that he needed to give him a chance to be in the Olympics. In response to his lack of high end equipment, Sherpa moved to France where he found a job as a bricklayer and trained for cross country skiing for four months. Even though Sherpa was still at a disadvantage because he trained far less than his competitors, he wants to demonstrate what the Olympic spirit stands for.

“I think there is a very big chance I will finish last,” Sherpa said in an interview with Agence France-Presse. “But the placing is not important if I can teach young people in Nepal about the Olympic spirit. This spirit is in my heart.”

Sherpa finished 92 out of 95 Olympians.

The governing bodies of each winter sport have  attempted to create rules and regulations for the equipment and apparel to create a more competitive environment among athletes. The International Ski Federation (FIS), for example, has created rules that require speed suits for skiing to be skin tight and only allow 40 percent air flow through them in order to prevent buoyancy in the air and give each country a standard at which all athletes must meet according to the FIS website. Another purpose for this rule is to ensure that all countries are on a level playing field with each other.

Although advancements in technology are beneficial for the athletes who can access them, they created an uneven gap between the poor and wealthy country’s athletes. The actions of sports federations such as the FIS are plausible methods to solve the problem between these two types of countries. In order to uphold the spirit of the Olympics — that through hard work success will come — regulating the use of technological advancements in international sports is crucial.