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A Minute with Mark

World Cup Wonders

Engineering has changed sport beyond our imagination.

In football, balls have gotten lighter and rounder while boots have become thinner, making the game faster than ever. Engineers that normally design submarines and warships have allowed athletes to achieve their dreams, while STEM has helped Paralympic athletes compete against able-bodied sport stars at the Olympic Games.

In keeping with this past month’s Year of Engineering theme ‘Engineering in Sport’, we are celebrating these engineers that not only have improved sport, but have aided competition and made games more exciting to watch.

While science might not be able to predict if England will win The World Cup it could help them do it with, for the most part, sports engineering existing to give one athlete an advantage over another. But what if this advantage is unfair and what makes it so? In 2009 high-tech, non-textile swimsuits were banned after 94% of races at the Beijing Olympics were won by its wearers, the officials citing an “unfair advantage” in the face of sporting excellence. If sport is about competition, hence the ban of the swimsuits, then sports engineering operates in a paradox; trying to overcome competition without being disavowed.

The ethics of engineering in sport will need more than 250 words to solve, but, the same way you don’t let a cyclist ride with a motor, engineering shouldn’t change the nature of the sport itself. Unless that helps England take penalties of course.