Some of the brightest minds in sports technology gathered in London last week to attend the first IAAF Innovation Workshop, designed to promote creativity and collaboration among the IAAF’s technical partners and suppliers.
The aim is to bring new technology to the World Athletics Series events to enhance the live, broadcast and digital viewing experience for spectators and fans, and better share the stories of the extraordinary athletes and their journeys.
Those attending included official IAAF partner Seiko, which has supplied timing equipment and expertise to the IAAF since 1985; design technology company deltatre; and officiating and broadcast technology provider Hawk-Eye Innovations. IAAF Productions, responsible for providing host broadcast services at the IAAF World Athletics Series events, event presentation equipment supplier Creative Technology and social media agency Fifty Digital also contributed to the dialogue.
All these companies are working on a variety of projects which include: new television camera angles that will take fans even closer to the action, new ways to display competition information (in the stadium, through the broadcast and online) and to highlight the field events happening inside the track. Ultimately, the IAAF believes new technology will enable it to present a clearer field of play, removing visual distractions that might take away from the competition, and providing the best stage for the extraordinary talents of track and field athletes.
Mr Shuntaro Ishii, the President of Seiko Time Systems Inc, described the discussion as “very stimulating” and predicted it would accelerate advances in the presentation of the sport.
Mr Ishii said: “It was a great idea to bring so many experts from many different areas of sports technology together and allow us all to share one another’s experience and ideas for the future. I congratulate the IAAF on this initiative. I think there is now a new synergy among the many companies working with the IAAF to improve the sport and the way it is presented to the world.
“It is very good to see that the IAAF is investing in new technology initiatives in so many areas. We believe that athletics is a great sport that deserves an even bigger audience than it has today and that technology is the way to achieve this. Through innovations in our timing and information display systems, we will do all we can to help the IAAF to bring the excitement of the sport to a wider, younger audience. You will see important advances in this area in Doha.”
Mr Ishii said technology had “a big role” to play in bringing new generations of fans to athletics.
“We have many ideas as to how we can make athletics look more exciting on TV and more interesting to the spectator in the stadium and we look forward to working with the IAAF team in the months and years to come,” he said.
All the attendees were enthusiastic about the value of an interactive approach, saying it would assist the IAAF to remain on the cutting edge of sports presentation.
Hawk-Eye’s Director of SMART Sports, James Barton, said the meeting was “incredibly productive” and demonstrated the IAAF’s “strong desire to develop technological solutions to address the challenges, and opportunities, which are developing across the rapidly changing sports industry”.
“There was a significant focus on new and innovative methods of opening up athletics to a new audience by informing, educating and engaging a new generation of fans and spectators,” he said.
“I think that technology for broadcast and social media will very quickly be able to open up the sport, providing insights into the techniques and performances of the world’s best athletes, which may previously have been invisible to all but the most expert eyes.”
IAAF Productions’ Executive Producer Mark Fulton added: “The drama of the competition and the emotion that it generates will be showcased by a modern and consistent editorial treatment across all platforms. Both our core and casual fans will benefit from new insights that will give everyone a better understanding of the athletes and the sport.”
The IAAF intends to make the Innovation Workshop an annual event as it drives the modernisation of the sport.
“We have a strong group of highly creative, globally recognised, technology and technical partners, like our long-standing and trusted partner Seiko, and suppliers who love the sport of athletics and want to join us in driving more innovation across the sport,” said IAAF President Sebastian Coe.
“We have spent the last three and a half years strengthening the foundations of this sport and ensuring we have robust and comprehensive governance, clear pathways for men and women to progress equally through the sport and a level playing field for all athletes to compete on with integrity, trust and fairness. We now want to move the dial in the sport presentation and fan experience field as well as looking at new formats and events that will be fun, challenging and inspiring for athletes and fans.”