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The Olympics as innovation platform

Katherine Manuel  Senior Vice President, Innovation, Thomson Reuters

Katherine Manuel  Senior Vice President, Innovation, Thomson Reuters

And now for some good news. The Olympics is about to boost innovation

As we approach this summer’s Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it seems as if we’ve been inundated with negativity. From talk of the Zika virus, terror threats, polluted water and budget threats, there is certainly no lack of (legitimate) concerns. While there’s much to be said about all of these issues, I would like to focus on innovation and how the Games will stretch and propel new ideas with the same force as Sam Kendricks or Fabiana Murer pole vaulting through the air.

Innovation underlies a significant reason that cities and countries vie to host the Olympics. And, it is a critical part of why we consciously or unconsciously are drawn to this historic event.

Each Olympics spurs innovation – on both the local and global level. It’s part of what makes it – and the surrounding spectacle – so compelling to watch. The Games often feature prototypes and new ideas that then make their way into broad usage.

There’ll be many lessons…

An innovation platform for host cities

Take infrastructure, for instance. Each city invests billions of dollars into infrastructure simply to support this 16 day event. Remember the velodrome in Los Angeles and the giant LED screen in Beijing? A huge number of roads, trains, tunnels and other infrastructure pop up to support the influx of people who come to participate or spectate.

In large part, cities view this as a way to both invest in the future and demonstrate the power and pizzazz of their city, country and local culture.

A 360 view of the action

Whether on the internet, high-definition film, drone technology or otherwise – the way the games are captured, reported on and displayed constantly pushes the envelope. It is no longer prime-time-only viewing on a major network, but rather a real-time streaming of even the most niche events such as Canoe Slalom and Trampoline.

Our own Reuters journalists will be providing virtual reality and 360 degree video and photography news content from the games, using Samsung Gear 360 cameras and editing technology. The new cameras aren’t yet available to the public, but we know from our time showcasing Virtual Reality at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and in Davos that the desire to be immersed in content rather than simply see it is growing, hence the Thomson Reuters Focus 360 partnership with Samsung.

It means viewers with the latest Samsung mobiles including Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Note5, S7, S7 edge and upcoming flagship models will be able to watch Focus 360 video content on the Samsung Gear VR.

A different sort of wearable

From wearable technology that track every movement to new types of apparel that claim to shave seconds off times – innovations are helping to hone performance and training of our most talented athletes across the globe.

Immediate feedback like never before is informing nutrition, speed, heart rate and environmental factors. Just think about nanoparticles used in athletic clothing to protect the athletes, while still performing at the highest levels to computer chips in basketballs and baseball bats to help train and harness perfection.

I would argue that the Olympics is all about Innovation. And I can’t wait to see what new ideas are spurred during the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Perhaps it’s time to shot-put our doubts into the long grass, and watch as the technological and social media ideas roll into action for some performances as perfect as those we’ll be watching by the world’s sportsmen and women in the coming weeks.

Learn more

Check out to view news and stories from the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Visit Innovation @ to learn more about our partnerships and how we are pairing technology with human expertise at Thomson Reuters Labs™.

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