Athletics to adopt Hawk-Eye after successful trials at the World Relay Championships in Nassau
Sport to follow success of tennis, cricket and football by using hi-tech cameras
By Simon Hart, Athletics Correspondent
28 May 2014
Hawk-Eye, the British company whose hi-tech camera systems have transformed officiating in tennis, cricket and, more recently, football, is turning its attention to athletics following a successful trial of its ‘Officiating Replay Service’ at the inaugural World Relays in Bahamas last weekend.
Fixed Hawk-Eye cameras capable of producing 340 frames a second were placed at elevated vantage points around the track in Nassau to help adjudicate on whether any relay runners exchanged the baton outside the changeover zone.
Thanks to the technology, officials were able to come up with instant decisions on whether a team should be disqualified instead of the protracted wrangles that have marred previous championships.
At the World Championships in Moscow last year the appeal jury took so long to disqualify the French women’s 4x100 metres team for a changeover infringement that they had already received their medals and were back at the athletes’ hotel by the time a decision was made.
Their disqualification benefited the British women’s team, who were promoted from fourth to the third, but the squad had to wait six months before they were presented with their bronze medals.
Part of the problem was that officials were reliant on broadcast footage to check for infringements, which meant that they were at the mercy of the TV director in terms of camera angles.
The frame rates per second of broadcast cameras are also considerably slower than that of Hawk-Eye cameras, making it harder to rule on marginal transgressions.
Hawk-Eye cameras were used extensively at the London Olympics, including for certain track and field events, but the World Relays was the first time the system has taken up by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The technology is now expected to be rolled out all major IAAF championships, including next year’s Worlds in Beijing.
Lauren Reader, the senior account manager who oversaw the Hawk-Eye system in Nassau, said: “We record all the camera feeds coming in, which allows us to view frame by frame, zoom in or view in slow motion to see exactly what’s happened. It’s live, on-the-spot officiating.
“We have a referee in with us who can communicate with the on-field referee so if they see anything they can do an instant dismissal. And that footage is available for the team if they want to appeal to come in and see the footage and decide if they want to take it to the jury of appeal.
“Because we’re looking at it live, as the runners approach the changeover zone we can slow it down and watch as they pass through the zone and make a decision there and then, so it’s instant really.”