CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
Science and technology, the Internet and a vast catalogue of new sport disciplines related to leisure time, health and wellbeing, besides coexisting with the environment, will compete strongly over the upcoming years with traditional sports and international events, which will, however, maintain their space and relevance
Photo: Freddy Henríquez
How many feats, records, world champions and Olympic medalists has known universal sports history since the Greek soldier Pheidippides covered the distance between Marathon and Athens to announce the victory over the Persian army? And how many new disciplines, regulations, stadiums and competitions appeared since the first Olympic Games (Athens, 1896) of the modern era, proposed by Pierre de Coubertin? How did mass media and marketing expand and make profit from the spectacle of sports, many of whose players (Ferrari, Real Madrid, Yankees, Galarraga, Woods, Beckham, and Phelps, among others) became millionaire and mass idols? And how did science and technology contribute and will continue to promote the evolution of this activity over the next 100 years?
Sports in the future will still have athletes that run faster, jump higher and throw further. They will maintain their recreational nature and develop more competitive activities, and will continue to expand as spectacle and business. But sports will have other features imposed by scientific and technologic breakthroughs. They will also surf the cyberspace with games and competitions and their aim will be preserving the health of the communities that practice sports.
What will be the fate of sports? There are infinite social, cultural, economic and even political possibilities; business opportunities and diversification. They will even serve as a research tool for the development of equipment that improves the athletes' performance.
However, so many options and challenges, public pressure and the physical and competitive demands that this new Diaspora makes on athletes entail many risks and temptations that today can be very sophisticated (frauds and gambling), difficult to detect or dangerous for the health of those who break the laws that prohibit doping.
Nobody inside or outside the sports arena envisages now major changes in the form or substance of the most traditional and universal sport disciplines or in the most relevant events that are increasingly globalized; those that have more and more participants, that increase in audience through the different communicational platforms and represent huge economic benefits for the sponsors through very varied businesses.
Consequently, except for the contribution of technology through clothing and implements, sports like soccer, car racing, tennis, golf, basketball, baseball and even the professionalized athletics will remain relatively the same. There will not be substantial changes in world championships of any of those disciplines and much less in the Olympic Games.
But something is certainly changing in this environment very rapidly. For a few years now futurist games or X-games: skateboard, bicycle motocross, snowboarding, bungee, and surf-skiing and the so-called esthetical games -hurling, kickball and bicycle polo- compete for the attention and dedication of a universe of people who practice them with the main goal of having fun, exchanging and being fit without damaging the environment.
There are also new options of cyber games, as well as competitions in the cyber space. The Internet, portals like Yahoo and social networks like Facebook are key for the popularization of the so-called fantasy sports. The most popular in Venezuela is the fantasy-baseball.
Videogames are no longer only children entertainment. Now young people and adults are fans of videogames and by organizing and participating in cyber competitions they are increasingly closer to becoming athletes, even running the risk of suffering pain and injuries due to the improper use of controls.
In Asia, Europe and the United States there is a great many communities that compete in cyber tournaments of football, basketball and tennis, among other sports. Some even hold regular international championships. Both events as well as most relevant players are financed by companies that operate in the technological area.
Science and technology contribute to the development of sports by producing sophisticated training and competition equipment and a new and powerful generation of medicines and drugs, in addition to food supplements and drug products to treat injuries. But the greatest impact will be that of the use of genetics to create more powerful and enduring and stronger human beings.
Many things have changed and improved in sports since that day in Rome, in 1960, when the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila won the Olympic marathon running barefoot. Today athletes not only have more legal drugs to get stronger; they also have technological gadgets, either to control training or the competition itself.
These accessories range from watches that control the heart rate, muscle stimulators, balls with chips, bicycles manufactured with compound materials that render them lighter and stronger, to competition shoes and clothing that improve performance.
Tight-fitting uniforms as those used by swimmers like I. Thorpe (Adidas Aqua Shift), in Australia and Athens, and M. Phelps (Speedo LZR Racer) in Beijing are famous; the same happens with the outfits used by Serena and Venus Williams, which are manufactured with a material that prevents perspiration and maintains them fresh even in warm climates.
Without the contribution of Medicine, sports development or athletes' deeds would not have been possible. High-tech nutrition and lab profiles make it possible to model future athletes to obtain their maximum performance, and powerful drugs can prevent or heal injuries that, otherwise, would leave many athletes out of sports.
However, science is not always used for legal or ethical purposes, even in sports. Some laboratories develop stimulants and anabolic steroids that are capable of improperly and dangerously increasing athletes' performance. But these illegal products are being displaced by the use of gens and/or cells that are not detectable for the time being and are used to change athletes' speed, strength and endurance and increase their performance.
In spite of obstacles, difficulties, transgressions and/or deficiencies, sports will continue growing and developing throughout the next century.
News Editor, El Universal newspaper
Translated by Alix Hernández
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