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New tech helps make exciting competition in Daegu

Aug. 28, 2011 - 16:36 By
Video analysis brings faster and more accurate athletics games

DAEGU -- There are some unique scenes at this year’s World Championships in Daegu.

On Saturday in the opening events of the men’s decathlon, one Russian athlete took his time before rushing down the runway and jumping into the air. Then a strange scene occurred after the Russian landed on the sand; no one came forward to measure his landing point, but just seconds after his jump, the wide screen showed the record of 7.05 meters.

This brand new Video Distance Measurement technology is being used for the first time at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics for long and triple jump events, explained an official from SEIKO.

“We’ve developed this new system because IAAF asked us to improve attractiveness and appeal of the sport,” Shu Yoshino, the communication manager of SEIKO, told The Korea Herald.

The VDM system has been introduced after three years of R & D by the Japanese watchmaker in order to make more compact and accurate athletic events, claimed the Japanese official.

“It shows the result much faster. Before the VDM system, you had to wait until the measurement was completed, but now you don’t need to do that” he added.

Two years ago in Berlin, the IAAF used Electronic Distance Measurement system, which applies infrared beams and reflective prisms to calculate distance, for the jumping events.

“The judge has to put the prism in the right position in the sand pit, also the right angle under great pressure, but with VDM the judge now sits in cool operations room and looks at the computer screen,” said Yoshino, insisting that the cutting-edge system speeds up the game process and also reduces the risk of human error.

Instead of using the prism stick, the VDM uses measurement disks located on the side of sandpit and video cameras on the stand. For each attempt the system records multiple video frames taken from the cameras which are stored on its server.

“One second after the jump all the necessary data is on the screen so you don’t need to even measure. And all you have to do is to place the mouse curser on the right position.”

The main benefit of the new system, he said, is accountability for the competition.

“All the images are stored in the server, so when there is a protest challenging the result, you can always go back to the images,” he explained.

Apart from the VDM system, cutting-edge technology can be found in various places at the Daegu Worlds, from the starting blocks to even the athletes’ shirts.

Specially designed sensor is placed at each starting block and measures pressure from the athletes’ feet to detect false start in sprint races.

This year’s competition use a transponder, a 7.5g chip that is attached to the back side of the athletes bib, which provides data on records and speeds for road races, such as marathon and race walking, as well as the long-distance runs.

Also, the photo-finish judging system, which was first introduced at the 1991 Worlds in Tokyo, has continuously evolved with the system now scanning the finish line 2,000 times per second and producing color picture which the judges use to determine the winner.

“As athletes keep challenging sports timing, we’ve also been working hard to introduce innovative measurement equipment,” Yoshino said.

Asked how the innovative tech will change the games, he said: “I think a cleaner venue is very good way to go.”

The VDM, for example, places the camera remotely from the sand pit, and the computer is hidden, so the spectators see nothing but the athlete and sandpit, he said.

“The cleaner venue is what the IAAF is aiming for the future. Sport is being viewed more and more as entertainment, so how to entertain people, how to present the whole thing is very important,” he added.

Bt Oh Kyu-wook (