Tech that changed the sporting world

Gadgets and gizmos that changed our beautiful games

All sports, even the simplest, are increasingly being forced to evolve. But is this a step forward for sport or simply and intrusion of technology into our beloved games?

We've come a long way since the line and pistol days of on your marks, get set, go in athletics, from bikes with drop handlebars in the Tour De France and from men swimming in Speedos in the Olympics.

While those resistant to change often fiercely oppose progress as interference, here at T3 we can see how a good bit of gadgetry can improve our beautiful games.

We got the chance to see the Wimbledon roof in action and we're pretty sure it's a step forward that will eventually develop its own unique place in the hearts of tennis fans. It actually adds character rather than removing it.

But is that the same of all tech advancement in sports? Do you hanker for the days of wooden racquets? Are you against goal line technology? Or has Hawk Eye made you love cricket even more?

Take a look through our list of tech that changed sport and tell us which ones you think were for the better and which have ruined your favourite games.

Centre court roof - Tennis
What kind of British summer would it be without the usual deluge of rain right about the time that the West London tennis club is in full flow with the world's finest tennis stars running across those immaculate lawns courts? Well the patter of rain will never again halt a top match on the famous Wimbledon Centre Court as the newly installed roof opens and closes for the first time at Wimbledon.

Closing in less than ten minutes, the likes of Federer, Nadal and our very own Murray will no longer face the dreaded rain delay leaving players without the indignity of finishing a match off the next day, and the fans short-changed for a whole day's play.

Diffuser - Formula 1
Technological advancement comes hand in hand with Formula 1 as teams continually strive to push the boundaries and the FIA regulations to get an upper hand on their fellow construction teams. In the latest bout of F1 innovation, Brawn GP, formerly the defunct F1 Honda team came under scrutiny for their use of an aerodynamic diffuser feature in the back of their car.

Channelling air out of the back of the chassis, the more down force produced in the rear wheels enhanced the speed and overall performance. Despite being challenged in the FIA's Court of Appeal, the amendment stood and with budgets set to drastically change in future F1 seasons, the parameters in which the teams must work in advancing their cars is to get a lot more difficult.

Electronic protector system - Taekwondo
Prompted by judge scoring controversies in the Beijing Olympics, the move for more tech in Taekwondo hopes to resolve some of the critical decisions which had initially caused some athletes to miss out on medals. The protectors which detect accuracy of the sense-impact level, the ability to differentiate between valid impact and invalid impact and the acknowledgment of consecutive impacts and calibration, hope to eradicate the kind of mistakes made in Beijing wherea scoring shot was not counted and subsequently eliminated an athlete from competition.

Along with introducing a video replay system, the WTF approved electronic protectors were first featured this month at its first WTF-sanctioned event, and will be ready for action in the London 2012.

Games consoles - Various
The days of ping pong and jumping barrels from King Kong being another way to pass the time are so far removed from the world of gaming that we have today that even in the world of sport they have become as much a part of their training regimes as hitting the gym.

Just ask reigning Formula 1 champ Lewis Hamilton who in his debut season admitted to only having previously experienced some of the tracks courtesy of his Playstation. Similarly Taekwondo enthusiast and London 2012 Olympics hopeful Tyrone Robinson has admitted to have taken inspiration from playing the latest Street Fighter to help him mentally rehearse moves, and sharpen his overall fight planning.

Hawk-Eye - Tennis
Having once being entertained by a fuming John McEnroe and his 'on the line' antics, Hawk-Eye has been seen as the saviour of the strongly disputed decision. The virtual reality system involving five high speed cameras high up in the roofs of Centre Court and Court One at Wimbledon's famous tennis club, accurately track the ball as it flies through the air. A computer captures the image from each camera and works out where the ball is in 3D space.

The bounce mark of the ball that Hawk-Eye shows is accurate to 3mm. Founder Dr Paul Hawkin's locating system is now commonly used in cricket and has previously been under consideration in for use in goal-line technology in football. In tennis though, it has help quell most of the disagreements, well most of them.

Heatstroke sensing helmets - American football
In the world of the oval football and Gatorade, the world of American football is preparing to embrace a piece of technology that serves the most valuable of functions, saving your life. Since 2005, heatstroke has killed 33 American football players, most at high school level. An Atlanta company called Hothead Technologies have devised a helmet device that can detect when players are suffering from heatstroke.

The sensor tucked into a helmet cushion has a probe that presses against the wearer's forehead in the area of the temporal artery. The readings are then sent to a PDA held by the coach or trainer via a short-range wireless link. With an athletes temperature often to climb to above 100 degrees farenheit, it is a problem that can easily go undetected, and with this new device it could well be a life saver.

Nike Swift suit - Athletics
The world of track and field is renowned for any legal way to get a little more out of their performance, even if it means donning a futuristic silver unitard to help you secure an Olympic gold. Australian 400m runner Cathy Freeman defied the likely tabloid fodder of looking like a space-age running robot by romping home in the 2000 Sydney Olympics wearing the Nike Swift Suit.

Helping to regulate heat and reduce the drag of the runner, the suit was given its approval on the biggest stage and it was not long before the Swift technology was applied to other sports such as speed skating, cycling, rowing and swimming.

Pro Zone - Football
The days of watching a player slog up and down a pitch and realise 'he's good at running' are over. Thanks to the likes of ProZone every aspect of a player's game can be transformed into statistics, using specialised cameras to record the movements of everyone on the pitch. Recent additions to the service, which already map a player's stats like distance covered, passes completed and all that gubbins, include goal analysis, detailing where a player scored, and how he scored.

Big teams are cottoning onto the benefits of using technology too, with the recent addition of Real Madrid to the ProZone stable. In the future, even the average Sunday league player won't be able to hide from the manager when he says he ran around loads all game long.

Speedo LZR Racer swimsuits - Swimming
You could say that the aquatic attire has gone through one or two changes, the most recent of which have come under severe scrutiny as to the advantage they bring to athletes. One swimsuit in specific question is Speedo's high-tech LZR Racer swimsuits sported by gold medal-hauling Michael Phelps at this year's Beijing Olympics.

Despite the sport's governing body FINA approving them, notable names in the sport believe they are unfairly aiding swimmers' endurance and buoyancy, with 50 world records falling to those using the suits. The suits for now will stay in the sport, but in a move to stop athletes pushing the boundaries, measures have been taken such as special barcode tests to be submitted by swimmers at next month's world swimming championships.

Titanium golf clubs
The baggy trousers and Pringle jumpers have been a cornerstone of the gentleman's game, but it's the clubs which have made the most dramatic of transformations. Much like the wooden tennis racket was eventually swapped for a steely, more metallic frame, golf was bound to head in the same direction.

Rewind the clock back to the 1990's and Mizuno were the first to put pure titanium clubs into the shops and suitably push the distance players could now hit the ball. The forged Titanium clubs are now a must for Mr Woods and a host of PGA golfers even if the screeching ping is said to be a little rough on the ears.

Coloured balls
The advent of the white football in the 1950s meant that spectators could see the ball during floodlit games. As could the players, come to that – the brown balls used previously were dangerous at the best of times and invisible at night. Perilously heavy with absorbed rain, they were at last visible to the goalie – just before they knocked him out.

Real-time betting
Once, if you wanted a tenner each-way on the National, you’d mince into the smoky, frightening land of the tiny pen and ask the real man behind the counter how it all works. Now you can bet in real time via your phone, telly or tablet, and get a lot less looks when you conduct your gambling whilst dressed solely in your underpants.

Interactive punditry
Performers like John Motson and David Coleman – men employed for their ability to wear car coats and say, “Errrrrr… extraordinary” – have been replaced by former pros with iPads. Gary Neville, for instance, can now manipulate replays and camera angles, showing you how he would have won the game while ignoring the fact he scored seven goals in 19 years of play.

The social gobshite fires star opinions regularly in our direction, from Joey Barton’s philosophy lessons to inspirational words from Andy “I Play Tennis” Murray. But king of sporting Twitter is Kaka, with 9.5m followers eager for delights such as “Now it’s time to play Mario Bros with Luca. He’s always Luigi, cause it has L like Luca.”

Colour TV
Wimbledon 1967 saw Aussie John Newcombe take the men’s title in the first colour broadcast in Europe, but it was David Attenborough, then the controller of BBC2, who truly showed the power of colour TV in the UK. He commissioned the Pot Black snooker show in 1969 – it had never really worked in black and white, for some reason…

The “first and ten” line
This has been central to American football since 1998, with a computer painting the line on screen at all times during game broadcasts. It’s simple, but without it the “grid iron” would be even harder to follow.

Jet aeroplanes
The choice of Uruguay as venue for the first Fifa World Cup meant that only four European teams turned up – getting there involved a costly, two-week cross-Atlantic boat trip. The introduction of jet airliners in 1952 made intercontinental sport routine. Unless, that is, you’re footballer Dennis Bergkamp – he refuses to fly after an engine cut out on him in 1994 – or Mr T, whose attitude to getting on any damn plane, particularly one piloted by a “crazy fool”, is well documented.

Replays and fourth officials
A combination of the above is effective in cricket and rugby union, yet fourth officials in football are not privy to replays and spend most of their time walking around, controlling subs and absorbing abuse from Sir Alex and thousands of London-based Man United fans.

Plus: See the gadgets that didn't make it, in our walk through the Tech they banned from sport.

(Keith Prowse is the official hospitality provider to The Championships - Wimbledon. Get more info on the luxury Skyview hospitality packages at Wimbledon and book your place at other major sporting events.)

Life-changing gadgets

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