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BOA reveals plans to help athletes deal with Beijing conditions
The British Olympic Association (BOA) and UK Sport have been working together for the past four years to ensure Britain’s athletes are the most prepared and equipped to deal with the conditions they will face out in Beijing this summer.
While much has been made in the media of the problems surrounding the pollution levels, UK Sport’s Research and Innovation Consultant, Dr Scott Drawer and the BOA’s Head of Sports Science and Research, Dr Marco Cardinale, were both keen to stress that this was not the major concern for the athletes.
The heat and humidity has been singled out as the greatest environmental threat to success for Team GB. Drawer and Cardinale have worked with the UK’s leading experts in the management of thermal stress and the effects of travel and jet lag to ensure Team GB’s athletes line up in the best possible shape.
Drawer said: “With medals won by increasingly small margins, we have analysed every factor that can affect the ability of our leading athletes to perform to their potential. Every Games location brings with it its own set of special challenges and our job is to equip every sport with a toolkit that will allow them to meet those challenges head on. With Beijing’s prevailing conditions of high temperatures coupled with high humidity, the first priorities must be cooling and hydration and that is where we have concentrated our energies.”
UK Sport has invested £250,000 in seeking out the nation’s leading scientific expertise to devise strategies that each sport can tailor to its specific needs. They have also been working closely with adidas and Coca Cola, two of Team GB’s suppliers, on the issues of clothing and hydration and the parts these two play in the overall success of the team.
Each individual sport has a unique plan in place to ensure the athletes can perform at their peak. And the research has drawn on knowledge from across a number of sports, for example, the Sailing body has shared its world leading meteorological expertise with other British sports to help them know more about the variety of conditions to expect during the period of the Games.
Heat chambers, which replicate the conditions of Beijing, are being used to allow athletes to train in that environment. A number of cooling devices such as ice vests will also be used during the games to keep the athletes core temperatures at the desired level.
Travel and jet lag were also identified as critical issues in the athlete’s preparation. After extensive research Team GB chose Macau as its base. It offers world class training facilities (many new facilities were constructed for the East Asian Games in November 2005) for the athletes for the 2-3 weeks prior to the Games. Macau is in the same time zone and offers similar climatic conditions as the Olympic Host City to aid acclimatisation and is also within a half-day transfer to the Beijing Athletes’ Olympic Village to avoid recurring travel fatigue.
Cardinale said: “We focus on the challenges that a Games will present the moment a host city is announced, as it can take years to devise the best package of counter measures. In the last couple of years we have been able to use test events in China as opportunities to experience the conditions first hand and check on the effectiveness of our strategies. We won’t share all of the lessons we’ve learned because we believe that some of them will continue to deliver us a competitive advantage but we are confident that all athletes in a British vest will have had the best possible support and preparation, with nothing left to chance.”
Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine