All things come to an end…

The semester is coming to an end and so will our blog posts. So, it’s the right time for me to take a look back at the posts I wrote and reflect on what I discovered, what I have learnt and what might be helpful in the future.

 

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Why is everyone talking about “new trends”?

When I went through recent posts like the ones from Lanny, Nancy, or Lucas, they had one thing in common. They were talking about trends for 2012. I thought about it and actually there are also trends in sports for 2012. I will present to you the top 10 trends for this year and give you a little background on the development in the fitness segment.

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Anti-doping – can I see your passport, please?

Having the 2012 Olympics in London ahead there is a number of discussions coming up again. And there is one topic I would like to focus on today. My blog mate Alina touched in her “I will keep pushing you” blogpost already on the topic of doping. And I found something really interesting regarding doping and a new technology of tracking drugs in blood and urine.

The Biological Passport

In fact this technology is not a new technology itself (as they are still testing blood and urine for drugs) rather the process is new. Usually, urine is tested a single time on common drugs like EPO or the level of haemoglobin and blood reticulocyte is tested. If the levels vary too much from “normal” values the tested sample will be considered “manipulated/positive“.

And here starts the conflict. Because athletes will claim, that they are suffering some mysterious disease and that is why their haemoglobin or reticulocyte levels are above average.

So, what the “Biological Passport” does is that data of biomarker levels in the blood are collected on a regular bases in order to figure out the average level of the different biomarkers of each individual. And if there are bigger changes found beyond the individual margin, this will be considered clear evidence to the cheating of the athlete. No excuses no more.

Sustainability 

Deepak states in his blog that with the introduction of the passport in 2008 the number of tests with results beyond marginal values has dropped to only 4% (compared to 10% in 2007 and 14% in 2001). Obviously, this test is great success, however Deepak adds, its reliability is denoted 99.9% which implies that out of 1000 samples 1 will be wrongly tested “positive”.

Critics

Apparently there is ways to outwit the passport test as well. For example by employing micro doses of illegal substances it is possible to constantly remain within individual substance boundaries and the test will never state “positive” although drugs have been consumed, Grannygear objects.

Moreover, Grannygear argues that rider’s blood markers naturally change over the time of their career due to improvement in their performance and natural progression as athletes. And it is not clear whether this is accounted for in the biological passport programme or not.

Cervelo Co-Founder Vroomen states in his blog that he has not heard of riders being tested for the biological password between the end of the Tour de France 2010 tour and April 2011. He is wondering about the interval of the samples to be taken and a possible decrease once profiles are established.

Vroomen claims that for athletes the deterrent is not the fact that there exist those individual profiles but that there are constantly samples taken that keep track of changes and so would prove doping. (but if there are no tests on a regular bases, the are no reference values available)

Furthermore, Deepak and Vroomen talk about the cost of this technology. On the one hand the programme lacks transparency as athletes have not full access to their data. Which leads to defending biological passport cases in court which is quite expensive. (wouldn’t it be easy to avoid those cases by simply making it more transparent?)

And on the other hand the high cost of the programme inhibits the spread of usage. Deepak explains that an average laboratory test is about $400. Athlete Marion Jones was tested 160 times in her career which adds up to $64,000 for a single athlete. The UCI (International Cycling Union) spent about $8 million on anti-doping in 2007, which was 50% of their budget, he continues.

And if we then add the money spent on lawsuit in court there is not a lot of money left for further research and improvement of the passport.

Defending the biological passport

In response to Vroomen’s post the UCI gave a counter statement citing evidence to refute Vroomen’s unsupported claims.

In order to do so they provide statistics that “clearly demonstrate” that Vroomen’s allegations were incorrect.

General statistics for Blood Passport Tests only (excluding urine tests and Tour de France 2010) from July 1st 2010 until April 30th 2011 (period referred to by Mr. Vroomen):


2010: 1074


2011: 1577

This includes out-of-competition controls, pre-competition and in-competition controls on all major events during this period and team training camps.

Teams:


CERVELO
 01.07.2010 – 31.12.2010: 45

GARMIN(-CERVELO)
 01.07.2010 – 30.04.2011: 68

The UCI considers Vroomen’s comments ’’unacceptable given the years of research and investment in this area“.

Good anti-doping test but poor publicity ?

I find it very interesting to see such a sensitive reaction to this one blog post. I am wondering about the reasons.

This new technology is recognized by international experts and it has become a reference used internationally, as stated by UCI on pedalmag.com. And there are people like grannygear that really see the value in the technology. It helped the cycling sport to not continue being ill-reputed due to the high number of athletes using drugs.

But it remains the question of the future development. There has already emerged the discussion about introducing it to more sports like swimming as there have been recently more drug abuse cases than before. But I haven’t heard of any action taken.

Why is it so difficult to spread the use of  biological passport? Wouldn’t the different sports gain better reputation if viewers/ fans would know that their idols are not cheating? To me, this test seems like it provides a better result for the individual athlete. Personal data is compared to each other and it is not one fixed value that is always referred to for every athlete.

So, where does actually lie the problem of further implementation? Legal obstacles? Financial obstacles?

Are you convinced? Would you vote for it if there were democratic elections for it?

Technologies? No, thanks. It’s a matter of time

In my Human eye vs. “Hawk-Eye” post last week I gave an example of a technology that is used in tennis when there is doubt about a ball having dropped down on the line or outside the field. It will provide us with an animated video showing with a 3-6mm accuracy where the ball hit the ground. (more…)

Human eye vs. “Hawk-Eye”

When we started blogging, annehwr already introduced us to the topic of “the role of technologies being used in sports”. In her post she was also referring to the so called “Hawk-Eye” technology and she touched the debate on whether it is a good tool to be used or not.

Being a tennis player, sometimes I of course watch tennis matches and I follow the big tournaments broadcasted on television. But today I will not talk about the players and their play but about a very helpful tool used during first-elite level matches.

Pressure

Over the last decades, tennis sport has experienced a certain development: the equipment has changed, racquets are made from different materials than before and today there are played courts of artificial surfaces.  This all led to a faster play in general. Along with that there have emerged several cases of officials’ line calling that stirred up controversy. So, there has been increasing pressure from all different parts to adopt a system that will give assistance in line-calling.

Today I will give you the “tennis view” on the “Hawk-Eye” technology and in my next post I will give you a debate and an example of a sport that is not benefitting yet from such technology.

What is “Hawk-Eye” ?

Just to give you a quick understandable explanation: “Hawk-Eye” is a line calling system that works with high-speed cameras placed around the court. This system is recording from different angles the balls’ trajectory and can so compute a 3D image of the ball and the spot where it hit the ground.

It is not only about “in” or ‘’out’’

Jason Tsang writes in his blog about the additional use of the “Hawk-Eye” system apart from preventing the umpire of wrong line calls. He states that this tracking system also allows for statistics that can be also shown to the audience. Further he argues that even the players could benefit during the match from the stats displayed as they could adjust their play.

Opponents

Nevertheless, there are doubters of this technology. Most famous person in this context could be Roger Federer being cited: “A pure waste of money.”

It is to mention that according to Jason the system costs approximately $20,000 to $25,000 USD per week for one court.

Bloggers Anonymous and Geoff are challenging the accuracy of the technology as they are wondering about the balls’ compression and skid and the images proportionality. They claim that the images look as though the ball’s entire diameter always comes in contact with the court (as we can see a perfectly round and quite large imprint of the ball).

Jeff Walker adds that the “Hawk-Eye” system takes out the emotion of a match. He says that if we have had replay back then we would have never seen legendary tirades of players against umpires. He declares that this was definitely more entertaining than a computer spitting out a result.

Proponents

But there are a lot of people who are in favor of  “Hawk-Eye”. Jamea Jackson stated that she feels relieved as she is not wasting any more time on getting angry about wrong umpire decisions (and while being angry loosing points). And she disagreed on peoples’ opinion that the system throwing off the timing and the rhythm of the match.

So, to sum it up I think that James Blake gave a good statement on the use of the system as he argued that the speed of the ball sometimes just makes it impossible to see, even for trained people and that a simple replay can eliminate human error.

Obviously it is a good tool but just like Anonymous observes that the system is mostly only used on the center court (the ONE main court of a tournament) it advantages (only) top players as they can challenge line-calls in order to find out if the ball was in or out. I think there must be found a solution for the cost issue, otherwise this technology will instead of gaining representative value, loose it. All players competing in the same tournament should be given access to the same tools.

A post a week. Not more, not less.

To write one post per week is actually not that much. But the challenge is to find every week a topic that people are interested in and talk about in the specific field that you are interested as well. In my case anything linked with tennis and ball sports.

Finding the topic

I actually end up every Wednesday night typing into Google random phrases like “tennis IT”, “tennis marketing sponsoring” and so on. JUST to find out, that even if I limit the search to “blogs” and “last 30 days” I do not get a lot of valuable results in the first place. For some reason most of the results lead me onto commercial sites where I find only information about what I just typed in but I don’t find discussions about it. Most of them commercial sites that put up their own blogs on their home pages in order to give MORE information about their products. – FAIL.

Should not find topic but PEOPLE discussing a topic

What I did then, was adding “discussion” into my Google search topic. Clicking here, reading there, in the end did lead me to a few tennis blogs but still I did not see that people were arguing about different things.

My topic

The topic I was (I am) interested in, is the issue of referee decisions and technologies that are supposed to back up referee decisions in order to avoid wrong (?!) decision-taking (check out the video I have linked here!) and to guarantee fair matches. This technology – called “Hawk-Eye”– is already used in Cricket and Tennis but also in sports like soccer there are again and again coming up discussions about such kind of technology. In the past we have witnessed a number of obviously wrong referee decisions. If we think back of goals that were not given to the team because the referee announced them invalid. This produced a lot of bad feelings among the spectators and fans because they are feeling betrayed. But on the other hand people are arguing that those technologies are slowing down the flow of a match and that is why they are against launching such technologies. I felt that there must be people out there who are talking about just that.

Found THE blog

As I remember those conflicts from the FIFA World Cup in 2006 in Germany already, I decided to take out the “30 days” limitation because it is a current topic, but not as new and at the moment probably not very much discussed anymore as the last World Cup took place more than a year ago. So, I would probably find more about this topic going back a few months. – And then I stumbled across what I was looking for so badly. Tim published a quite detailed post and gives his opinion on the latest Football Association (FA) announcement that the introduction of Goal-Line technology will be postponed another year.

Where I want to go

So, I will follow that blog and will report on what I found out in my next post.

Apparently this blog post is from 2006 and until 2010 there were people who commented on this blog on tennis players’ comments on the “Hawk-Eye” technology and possible advantages and disadvantages of it.

Motivation – the ultimate extra bit to be successful !?

Did you ever ask yourself the question why athletes are so good in their sports and why it is not you in their place?  Being famous, earning larger amounts of money by competing in marathons, championships or world cups? And if you did, have you answered this question by your lack of talent and them being gifted?

Vince Lombardi -former American football coach- got he answer, as he once said:

Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.

Be motivated, get excited!

So, the extra bit that makes the difference is motivation. Is does not really matter of what your motivation consists Toni Church argues in his running-blog; whether you want to win, you want to achieve a personal best or if you are running in honor of a loved one.

Do not loose track

Once you found out why you are aiming for something, you are still not guaranteed any success. It is important to STAY motivated, something onelittlejill discusses in her blog asking the audience how they best motivate themselves. Kandi answers to this question that she kept telling her mum that she could make it and how strong she was in order to push her mom towards the completion of the marathon. Onelittlejil, she posted various images with motivating statements on her mirror which remind her every day of what her goal is.

Motivation in Business

And all of this can also be applied to business. Why are some more successful than others?

Nick Spano argues that Motivation, Productivity, and Change Management are very closely linked. Proper motivation can increase productivity.”

And finally, Anne Balaban concludes in her blog -after having rehearsed Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford University in 2005- that any individual can motivate others in order to make a difference.

Together we can do it

I believe that Sports teams are the perfect role model for companies and organizations regarding team work and a common target. If you watch basketball teams or soccer teams playing, you can always observe them when failing to score a point that they give each other high-fives. This is only a little gesture but in my opinion by this behaviour they are showing each other that they do not give up and they will keep trying until they finally score and win.

And this is what managers and team leaders in companies need to do. They should make sure employees stay passionate about projects in order to encourage them to keep working efficiently on projects and even more when they suffered setbacks.

This leads me to a few questions I would like to discuss with you:

In order to stay motivated, who is the more important part to motivate others? The team leaders or the team members?

connecting to the 1st question: WHO motivates managers? Are they fully self-responsible of their motivation?

Can athletic employees contribute a bigger share to the organizations’ success?

What are you wearing tonight?

If I think about my favourite soccer team or the basketball team I like most, I have a picture of them in my head. First, I see their faces and then I see big lettering across their chests. But it’s neither their names nor their teams’ name but it is advert lettering. This leads me to a topic I would to discuss today:

Advertisement in sports and the “big business” involved with it

Swedish confectionery company Cloetta, signed only 2 weeks ago a multi-year sponsorship with the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOC). This makes Cloetta an official team sponsor of the SOC and gives them exclusive confectionery rights for the period of the deal.
So, what is the reason for the producer of the largest single confectionery product in Sweden to conclude such a contract?

“The world of sports is by itself a very profitable business”

Sandie gochargers blog claims that “The world of sports is by itself a very profitable business”. Further they state that there is a lot of money involved in that sector and that there are various sources of money. But the largest amounts of money are derived from advertising, they argue. As there are a large number of sports events that are broadcasted on television, one can easily address his/her adds to a very large audience.
Sandie gochargers contends that people are confronted with advertisement on television during match broadcasting breaks which they could maybe only escape by switching channels.
But there are not only television adds, but advertisement all over the place, they complain. They quote opinions, stating that making money in this sector has become more important than the actual match and its transmission itself. Sandie gochargers considers this a fair argument and in addition they remark that sports broadcasting hours were adapted to advertiser’s demands. American baseball was formerly played and shown on TV in the afternoon but in order to comply with well paying advertiser’s demands, broadcasting hours were shifted to night hours, the author(s) explain(s).

FC Barcelona reorganizes handling of jersey printing

They conclude that ads are a very important part of sports as they bring a lot of money to the different sports clubs and organizations involved with sports. And it seems to them as if it was hard for such organizations to resist to the temptation of money, “especially in these hard times when sports are really stuck”. They contend that even soccer club FC Barcelona only recently signed now a 30 million € worth sponsor contract. The soccer team used to be one of the few top level soccer clubs that did not have sponsor names on their jerseys but the UNICEF logo but this organization did not have to pay any money to the club.

So, coming back to Swedish confectionery company Cloetta, we can now imagine how BIG the deal they got actually is: the Olympics are a worldwide event and the Games are not only broadcasted nationally but internationally means a lot more attention that is drawn on the company. And not to forget about the fact that now they are able to address also sports they did not concentrate on before. In the past they have been a sponsor of the Swedish national alpine ski and national handball teams.

Walking Billboards or earnest next generation of talent?

Cloetta’s Business Development Director Tony Wiréhn says: “This joining of forces with the Swedish Olympic Committee will strengthen Cloetta and Kexchoklad® since it gives us the right to use the Swedish Olympic themes in our marketing. And having the opportunity to create two Olympic products by labeling the products with the SOC emblem or giving them specially designed Olympic packaging is naturally a further advantage”.
Stefan Lindeberg, chairman of the SOC adds that the SOC wants to open the door for more talents and give them the chance of becoming global sports elite and Cloetta will now be an important partner in order to meet this goal.

This finally leads me to a number of questions:

Do you think that the athletic focus has shifted away from sports, towards the focus on promoting other companies and products? Distraction during matches?

Are the sponsors promoting the athletes and encourage new generations to become athletes or do athletes promote organizations and encourage people to buy products?