Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sport shoes: The magic bullet?

Nice to think there is a pair of super shoes out there that could turn a couch potato like me into another Usain Bolt. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is there is not, nor is it likely there will ever be. After millions of dollars have been spent on research and development shoe companies have failed to impact on World breaking records, as witnessed by Rio 2016.

Companies like Nike tirelessly try to achieve the magic elixir by many novel ways which involve the latest technologies but to no real avail. Whilst success in other areas of sports clothing such as swimming and cycling etc., have proved more fruitful field and track shoes remain more or less the same. Shoes remain the most vital piece of equipment an elite athlete has but to date, new models do not shave millimetres of performance records.

Modern sport shoes with their high colourways etc., function mainly as advertising billboards for apparel companies and shoe deals give the means of financing athletes. Usain Bolt (Jamaica), makes $32.5 million a year, including $30 million in endorsements. Far less visible athletes make between $10,000 to $25,000 annually from their contracts with shoe companies, along with prize money and other endorsements. Shoe designers continue to produce shoes which undoubtedly, do not distract athletes from a good performance but despite all manner of comfort and traction tweeking, modern footwear alone will never replace years of training, good coaching and the right body mechanics.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games: 2016 Rio de Janeiro

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.Over 11,000 athletes from 207 National Olympic Committees, including first time entrants Kosovo, South Sudan, and the Refugee Olympic Team, took part. These games featured 28 Olympic sports, including rugby sevens and golf. The lead-up to these Games was marked by controversies, including the instability of the country's federal government; health and safety concerns surrounding the Zika virus and significant pollution in the Guanabara Bay; and a doping scandal involving Russia, which has affected the participation of its athletes in the Games.

The Olympic flame was lit at the temple of Hera in Olympia on 21 April 2016, and handed over to the Brazilian organizers at a ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. The torch relay visited more than 300 Brazilian cities (including all the 26 states capitals and the Brazilian Federal District), before arriving in Rio de Janeiro. Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, the men's marathon bronze medallist at the 2004 Summer Olympics lit the cauldron during the 2016 Summer Olympics opening ceremony on 5 August. The cauldron was originally expected to be lit by Brazilian footballer Pelé, but he declined to participate due to health problems.

The opening ceremony was held in the Maracanã Stadium and highlighted aspects of Brazilian history and culture, and featured a segment narrated by Fernanda Montenegro and Dame Judi Dench with an appeal to environmental conservation and preventing global warming.

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad were fraught with complications and political turmoil. In preparation, the whole city underwent major infrastructure improvements, but some of the projects never materialised. The Olympic Village was the biggest ever but claims were made some of the structure was unsafe, Crime around the village dogged the games with many reports of athletes being mugged or threatened. Water pollution in the Guanabara Bay, continued to be an ongoing concern despite assurances every effort had been taken to reduce sewage pollution. An outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Brazil prior to the Olympics caused much alarm to the organisers. Many extra precautions were taken to prevent the spread of the virus and the World Health Organization were able to report no confirmed cases of Zika among athletes or visitors during the Olympics.

The USA (556) had the biggest team , followed by host nation Brazil (469), Germany (424), Australia (421) and China (404). The smallest team at the Games was from the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. Their sole competitor was Etimoni Timuani in the men’s 100m (athletics). Michael Phelps (US) won 18 gold medals for swimming which was more than the gold medal tally of hosts Brazil (11 gold).

The mascots, Vinicius (Olympics) and Tom (Paralympics) were chosen to reflect the diversity of Brazil's culture and people. Vinicius, was named after musician Vinicius de Moraes, and represented Brazilian wildlife and carried design traits of cats, monkeys, and birds.

A drug scandal involving state sponsored drug taking by athletes led to a ban on Russian athletes from competing in the Rio Games

For the first time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed athletes to compete as Independent Olympians under the Olympic Flag. From 43 refugee athletes deemed potentially eligible, 10 were chosen to form the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) , by the IOC. Due to the suspension of the National Olympic Committee of Kuwait, participants from Kuwait were allowed to participate under the Olympic Flag as Independent Olympic Athletes.

Relatively few world track records were broken at Rio 2016. In the Men’s 400m, Wayde van Niekerk (South Africa) won the gold medal with a World Record time of 43.03 seconds. He beat the previous record time of 43.18 seconds set by Michael Johnson during the 1999 World Championships in Athletics in Seville, Spain.

Conseslus Kipruto (Kenya) middle distance runner beat his personal best of 8:00.12 minutes for the 3000 m steeplechase at Rio 2016 with a time of 8:03.28 min and a new world record.

In the ladies’ track events, Almaz Ayana Eba (Ethiopia) set a new 10,000 metres world record, with 29:17.45 mins, breaking the previous one set in 1993.

Two wrestling coaches from Mongolia got so angry after a last-second penalty caused Mandakhnaran Ganzorig to lose a bronze medal they protested by removing their clothing and threw their shoes to the floor. The two protesters had to be escorted away by Brazilian police.

After he failed to clear a height of 5.3 metres in group A of the first round of the pole vault, Japanese pole vaulter, Hiroki Ogita, was distraught to find his penis had caused the bar to fall over. He was able to clear 5.45 metres on his final jump but sadly it was not enough to send him through and his earlier foul cost him dearly.

Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be best remembered for colourful shoes worn by the athletes. Usain Bolt (Jamaica) wore his golden shoes for competition.

Golfers were keen to be seen in competition wearing patriotic colourways. Victoria Lovelady (Brazil), sported her country's colours on the 3rd hole during the first round of the women's golf event.

Bubba Watson (United States) played the final round of men's golf wearing Stars and Stripes.

Off track the U.S. athletes wore bright yellow (Volt) Nike Free RN Flyknits, Yellow is the most visible colour to the human eye and volt is the most visible version of yellow. Nike sponsored the team and provided the custom footwear to promote their company.

Team GB athletes’ stole the show when they wore flashing deck shoes at the Rio Olympics closing ceremony. The shoes were charged using a USB port and flashed in red, white and blue for up to four hours.

Every Olympic athlete received a swag bag, brim full of gifts from the Games sponsors and other. This Games, the swag bag contained over 40 items from Nike., including 2 pairs of sandals for men, (1 pair for women), 3 pairs of athletic shoes, (2 for women), 3 pairs of workout leggings, 4 tank tops, 2 warmup jackets, and 3 pairs of socks only for women.

The closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics was held at the Maracanã Stadium and featured cultural presentations from both the current (Brazil) and following (Japan) host countries. The official handover of the Olympic flag from Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes to Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike took place as did the extinguishing of the Olympic flame.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Best of Men (trailer)

Sir Ludwig Guttmann (1899 – 1980): Founder of the Paralympic Games

Tanni Grey-Thompson speaks about the Jewish Refugee academic Sir Ludwig Guttmann, who founded the Paralympic Games At the joint British Academy - Association of Jewish Refugees Event held at the British Academy on 10th November Commemoration and Celebration: The British Academy and the Jewish Refugee Academics in Britain after 1933.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What eugenicists did for women's sport?

Summer holidays is a traditional time to rest and feast. Unfortunately most of us spend the rest of the year trying to lose the excess pounds we gain during the mid winter break. Spare a thought then for those athletes who need to keep in training during the holiday period. Whilst we might take women in sport for granted today, this was not always the case. Indeed during the early nineteenth century it was quite unthinkable for young ladies to be seen engaging in physical recreation. All this changed thanks in many ways to an eccentric man by the name Bernarr McFadden. He was a Darwinist and eugenicist and had made his fortune from writing and selling pulp fiction and magazines. Born in 1868, he was a prolific author and publisher of popular books and magazines. The self styled professor of kinesitherapy,wrote in his journals on the health the benefits of physical activities for men and women. Titles like Woman's Beauty and Health, Physical Culture, National Brain Power and Muscle Builder all became instant successes. McFadden’s publishing empire had another side to it and that was the sensational journal titles. True Story, True Romances, True Lovers, and True Confessions all came from the same stable. Men were more likely to read them but the journals did sell well and were the equivalent of today's soft porn.

Like contemporary eugenist, William Keith Kellogg inventor of the corn flake, cereal manufacturer, McFadden’s had many eccentric beliefs. Both men were of the opinion physical weaklings should not marry without first reaching an acceptable level of fitness. The ethos for Physical Culture, founded in 1899, was longevity of life and related to good living and appropriate exercise. McFadden often used himself as model for his publications and soon earned the title 'Bare Torso King'. Needless to say the popularity of his publications brought nothing but condemnation from the medical fraternity with much of their criticism directed toward encouragement of women taking exercise. It is not clear whether he was exploiting women or just preparing society to accept the importance of physical health for all. McFadden recognised how ignorant the general population was to the human body and cited better understanding would stop female degeneracy and make for a more physically fit and healthy nation. He encouraged young ladies to take up some of the more gentle outdoor pursuits such as walking, dancing, skating, croquet and cycling. He also advocated riding horses astride and for the more robust female frame women's baseball and basketball was ideal. This had major implications on the shoe industries.

As the popularity of physical culture societies spread throughout English speaking countries the middle classes flocked to them in their droves and of course needed the apparel. The first American Olympiad in 1904 included physical culture activities for women but females were not allowed to participate in the track and field events. The world was not quite ready for women doing physical jerks and it took another four years before the Olympic committee agreed to include ladies events (1928). Eugenics became a philosophical pillar of Nazi Germany in the thirties and mass exercise programs were openly encouraged. This again created a ready market for leisure shoes and as walking became a national past time; walking shoes took on the air of respectability and became the sensible shoes with its nemeses the heeled pump. It was only in the 1970s when the aerobic craze fronted by Jane Fonda was there as much interest in designing sport shoes for women. In the 21st century it has been left to the Soccer Moms to drive the shoe companies to cater for better fittings for girls’ soccer boots and now thankfully women in sport are better fitted than ever before.

Reviewed 31/08/2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Team GB's flashing shoes for sale (Limited Edition)

The Team Great Britain’s flashing shoes from the Rio Olympics’ closing ceremony are now on sale. The limited-edition light-up kicks by Simon Jersey , are available for online.