Sunday, August 12, 2012

The future of the Olympics

I closed my previous post with:
I'm going to compose an entry speculating on the future of the Olympics. Hey, what do you expect for a blog with a science fiction slant?
Here are the stories on this topic I originally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Opening of London Olympics edition) on Daily Kos. Welcome to the best speculation British science has to offer.

First, Nature magazine predicts Olympics: Genetically enhanced Olympics are coming.
Future Olympic Games may allow handicaps and gene therapy for people born without genes linked to athleticism, predict Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans.
July 19, 2012
Olympians can run faster, leap higher and lift more than 'normal' humans. Of course, such elite athletes earn their titles with an astonishing amount of hard work and support. But many also have some unearned advantages: the right genes.

There is growing evidence that world-class athletes carry a minimum set of particular 'performance-enhancing' genes. For instance, almost every male Olympic sprinter and power athlete ever tested carries the 577R allele, a variant of the gene ACTN3. About half of Eurasians and 85% of Africans carry at least one copy of this 'power gene'. The billion or so other people who lack the 577R allele might wish to reconsider their Olympic aspirations.

More and more genes are now being linked to athletic prowess, and future Olympic officials will have to wrestle with the implications. Are the games in fact a showcase for hardworking 'mutants'? And if Olympic rule-makers admit that the genetic landscape is uneven, should they then test every athlete and hold separate competitions for the genetically ungifted?
Not to be outdone, New Scientist has a slideshow of possibilities in Olympic extremes: The winning formulas for London 2012.
ONE-HUNDREDTH of a second. That could be the difference between an athlete representing their country in this year's Olympic Games in London and one staying at home. Even finer margins can separate medal-winners from also-rans.

The Olympics is the ultimate goal for many sportspeople, and they will go to great lengths to get there. Ever since the modern games began in 1896, any research that might give athletes a boost - no matter how small - is leapt on by coaches. Behind the scenes, every athlete relies on a legion of psychologists, physiologists, engineers, biologists and nutritionists. Their work is a closely guarded secret: nobody will know whether it has been successful until long after the medals have been awarded. But it is possible to make educated guesses about the latest crazes...
Finally, in the spirit of speculating about the Olympics, here is Next Media Animation's funny forecast for tonight's closing ceremony.

The closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games are here already! That was fast. Besides the "A Symphony of British Music" theme, there is little else known about the ceremony.
As for more speculation about the future, I think it's time I gave Paul Ryan his own label and a post introducing it.

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