With hundreds of competitors from across the world at the Winter Olympics, the thirst for instantaneous data is huge. That is why this Games makes more use of technology than any other, both for the athletes and spectators.
For starters, technology has been used to ensure that unpredictable weather can’t affect the Games, with isothermal blankets (typically used by explorers in the wilderness) keeping massive vaults of last year’s snow frozen as backup, in case this year’s snowfall fell short of expectations. A host of snow cannons are in place to manufacture artificial supplies should the white stuff get too low.
Those competing in the bobsleigh will have everything from their speed to their track position registered and logged by state-of-the-art tech as mere split seconds separate the winners from the also-rans. Watchmaker OMEGA, whose equipment determines the winner when the result is too close to call, boasts that its photoelectric sensors (‘magic eyes’) are so quick to register any disruption to the beam of light they project over the finish line that timings are accurate to the nearest 1/1,000th of a second.
Athlete kit has also seen amazing advancements. At Sochi 2014, the high-tech garments worn by the US speed skaters, for instance, have been developed by Under Armour for two years. Working with fighter jet manufacturer Lockheed Martin the suits not only help to reduce friction but also improve aerodynamics.
Provision for journalists has also increased massively. There’s bandwidth for 120,000 media devices, which equates to about three devices per person. This is a vast increase on Vancouver four years ago, though that’s understandable as there was only one wireless device for every four wired devices at the 2010 Games.