A revolution for sport? Olympic vision for AI innovations laid out by IOC


It was an unlikely setting for a revolution. But at Lee Valley VeloPark, where Team GB’s cyclists dominated at London 2012, the International Olympic Committee on Friday set the wheels in motion for how artificial intelligence could transform the sporting landscape.

“AI will be a revolution for our society,” the IOC president, Thomas Bach, said. “And it will be a revolution for sport. It will be a fascinating new lap in the Olympic race – and in Olympic history.”

Delegates, including Silicon Valley experts and legendary figures such as Nadia Comaneci and Lindsey Vonn, then sat through presentations about how AI will be what the IOC called a “gamechanger”. Some innovations will be seen at the Paris 2024 Games while others are designed to spot the talent of the future or even bring the past alive.

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“AI can help to identify talents in every corner of the world,” said Bach at the launch of what the IOC called its AI Agenda. “AI can provide more athletes with access to personalised training methods, superior sports equipment and more individualised programmes to stay fit and healthy.

“AI can also revolutionise judging and refereeing, thereby strengthening fairness in sport. AI can improve safeguarding in sport. AI will make organising sporting events extremely efficient, will transform sports broadcasting and will make the spectator experience much more individualised and immersive.”

One video showed AI capturing a diver in real time, with a screen immediately telling a judge the height of his jump, the number of rotations in the air and measuring how close his legs were to his torso as he spun. The aim is to give the judge a better idea of the quality of the dive and therefore to award a fairer score.

“We are not going to disclose all the innovations for Paris, but what we are doing in diving can be translated to other sports as well,” said Alain Zobrist, the CEO of Swiss Timing. “The AI model can show the rotations, speeds, angles, everything that is really crucial for a judge. AI splits the dive in sequences and analyses it in less than a 10th of a second. And it can be shared with fans in real time so they better understand where someone gained and lost points.”

Nadia Comaneci speaks at the IOC launch of the Olympic AI Agenda at Lee Valley VeloPark. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Another project involved Intel going to villages in Senegal and using AI to spot potential sporting talent based on filming children jumping, running, wrestling and doing press-ups on a mobile phone, with AI tracking their speed, distance and the biometrics of their movement.

“It’s absolutely huge,” said Christoph Schell of Intel, who claimed it had identified 40 kids with significant talent. “We toured five villages and scouted 1,000 kids. We are making it a level playing field for talent. And this can help advise parents about what sport their kids should choose.”

Another AI project was used to colourise black and white footage from the Paris 1924 Games and to show runners drinking red wine in the marathon.

The double Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee said he was intrigued by what he had seen. “I’m interested in sports optimisation and how AI might help people go faster, have fewer injuries, and things like fan engagement. But we heard about 50 things today where it could make a difference,” said Brownlee, who is also an IOC Athletes’ commission member.

Asked about the potential dangers of AI, he said: “Today has been about strategy, which by its very nature is very blue sky and positive. But there are dangers without doubt too. What are the safeguards? And what about the ethical things that people need to work out? Using AI to help with judging will make things fairer. But how do you make sure AI augments judges and doesn’t replace them?”


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