CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

Why They Stopped Using Real Pistols to Start Olympic Races

Original image
Getty Images

Before flying out of the starting blocks—and ultimately taking Olympic gold in the 100-meter race for the third time—Jamaica's Usain Bolt was met not with the fire of a pistol but a noise triggered by an electronic gun. Did previous Games use actual pistols?

Yes, but they've been scrapped for both safety and fairness. The guns were obviously firing blanks and were often rigged to blow off a puff of smoke so everyone could see. Some of the guns were even sealed shut and would just make a loud bang. In an interview with BBC Radio's "The Now Show," Alan Bell, the official Olympics starter at the 2012 Summer Games in London, said that he had even used a pistol with bullets stuffed with toilet paper.

In fact, the actual pistols used to start races have gotten some flak in recent years. One famous model, the Bruni Olympic .380 BBM, was banned in 2010 because it could be converted to fire live ammunition (other pistols that fire blanks must be brightly colored to avoid any confusion). Traveling with the guns—and the firing supplies—can also be a hassle in airports. And Bell himself was even banned from bringing a starting pistol to a race at a local school, leaving him to use a loud horn instead.

Enter OMEGA electronic start system: the plastic device doesn't fire at all, but triggers speakers behind each runner. It's also connected to the official timers and can't start without approval by the judges.

But the bigger issue the new electronic guns have solved is one of fairness, due to problems caused by the speed of sound. Runners in the lane farthest from the pistol were shown to have slower reaction times than those closest to it. Even wiring the starting blocks with speakers didn't help, since runners were still waiting for the pistol sound. In an interview with The Atlantic, OMEGA Timing board member Peter Hürzeler said that U.S. runner Michael Johnson's reaction time was as high as 440 thousandths of a second in the ninth lane, versus the normal 130 to 140 thousandth of a second, due to the lag time in hearing the sound. New Scientist also rounded up research on starting before the 2008 games and found that everything from location to the loudness of the pistol could affect the race.

Original image
KXIV
arrow
olympics
Redesigned Adidas Sneakers Channel Beijing’s Olympic Stadium
Original image
KXIV

Beijing National Stadium has stood empty since the 2008 Olympics, but that hasn’t stopped the building from becoming an architectural icon. Designer KXIV (Nathan Kiatkulpiboone) found inspiration in the tangled "Bird’s Nest" structure when re-imagining Adidas’s Ultraboost running shoe. As designboom reports, he used 3D-printing technology to achieve the lattice design.

KXIV comes from a background in architecture. When he isn’t dreaming up shopping centers or city towers, he’s applying the principles he uses as an architect to sneaker design. In 2014, he unveiled a pair of Nike Jordan X shoes that borrowed elements from Thailand’s White Temple and Black House. He's also created a line of dress shoes inspired by modern architecture for the footwear brand SewRaw.

His latest project evokes the Bird’s Nest woven exterior. The Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron designed the stadium for the 2008 Olympics, and today it’s remembered as one of the most distinctive structures ever built for the games.

To recreate the look on an Adidas sneaker, KXIV used polyurethane webbing fused to a lycra base. The upper layer of bands were 3D-printed in a way that holds the shoes together. The sneakers are just a prototype, so like the stadium they’re based on, the striking form will remain unused for the foreseeable future.

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV
KXIV

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV

[h/t designboom]

Original image
What’s the Kennection? #148
Original image

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios