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Indiana University experts discuss 2012 Summer Olympics

Editors: The 2012 Summer Olympics begin July 27 in London. Indiana University experts are available to speak with news media about various aspects of the games. Broadcast media may arrange remote, on-camera interviews using a studio at IU Bloomington. For assistance, contact Steve Hinnefeld at 812-856-3488 or or Dave Rust at 812-855-7019 or For help with reaching experts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, contact Rich Schneider at 317-278-4564 or For information about IU athletes competing in the games, along with videos of coaches and other experts, visit the special IU Athletics Olympics website at

July 18, 2012

IU experts discuss the following topics:

Fewer swimming records expected
Sponsorship and hospitality
Highlighting the importance of adaptive sports
IU artist's print on display
Legal issues, athlete eligibility
National identity trumps normal fan allegiances
Making it all work
The dreaded 'choke'
Drug testing a contentious topic

Fewer swimming records expected

Swimming enthusiasts should expect only a few new Olympic records or world records in London this summer as competitors must forgo the now-banned "flotation suits," the expensive and controversial full-body swim suits that nearly all the swimmers wore at the 2008 Olympic Games.

"Do I expect 24 of 26 Olympic records to be set, like in 2008? No I do not, because that was truly bizarre," said Joel Stager, professor of kinesiology and director of the Counsilman Center at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, formerly known as the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

Stager and his colleagues have created a statistical model based on the finalists' times for each Olympic swimming event since 1972. Swim times should improve in ever smaller increments as swimmers approach a theoretical limit to human performance. Unusually steep improvements tend to point to some form of "introduced" bias. Because of the flotation suits, such a jump occurred in 2008 to the extent that those swim times can not even be used in the model. Earlier performance "blips" were caused by documented steroid use (1976) and Olympic boycotts (1980).

"In 2008, 65 percent of all of the Olympic swim events were faster than predicted," Stager said. "For the previous five Olympics combined, only 9 percent of the events were faster (or slower) than our model."

  • Background: The model crunches the fastest eight male and female performances in Olympic swimming events from 1972 through 2004. Using the mean time across all years, a best-fit power curve was calculated for each swim event. These equations were used to predict the finish times for the 2008 Olympics and will be used again to predict swim times for the current Summer Games. The controversial suits were worn in the Olympic trials in 2008 and also in the Olympics. Costing $500 or more, the suits could only be worn a few times. They were shown to increase swimmers' buoyancy, particularly with the male swimmers, and this is forbidden by the board that governs international swimming competition.

Stager still expects to see some exciting races, and he said some records could fall. As an example, competition between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte could result in records. Based on his model and swim times posted at the Olympic trials earlier this summer, U.S. swimmers Allison Schmitt, Dana Vollmer, Missy Franklin and Breeja Larson also have shots at records. But swimmers from other countries, many of whom train in the U.S., also appear to be competitive and could give the USA swimmers tough competition for the gold.

Stager can be reached at 812-855-1637 and A video of Stager discussing swimming times and the impact of flotation suits is available online. Top

Sponsorship and hospitality

Jay Gladden

James M. Gladden

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An Olympic Games sponsorship is one of the more unique sponsorship packages available, says James M. Gladden, dean of the IU School of Physical Education & Tourism Management at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and an expert on sports branding and sponsorship.

"From a sponsor perspective, there are very few events that reach a worldwide audience and connect to the passion associated with nationalism," Gladden said. "Such strong feelings, particularly when connected to success, could lead to positive feelings toward sponsors. Conversely, sponsors may have a hard time garnering awareness as Olympic sponsors because the International Olympic Committee continues to demand that all competition venues are free of signage. This limits the benefits that sponsors can receive."

Gladden adds that there is also the issue of whether the products and services of sponsors are congruent with elite athletic performance.

"Companies like McDonald's, while making some improvements in the content of their food offerings, are only questionably aligned with the athletic competitions highlighted by the Olympic Games," he said. "Even more intriguing is the involvement of BP with the London Games, considering the Olympics' stated focus on sustainability."

Gladden adds that the Olympic Games provide arguably the most significant and global example of corporate hospitality. The roster of sponsors is populated with a wide variety of companies operating on a global basis. In order to nurture business relationships around the world, millions of dollars will be spent flying potential and current clients to London on charter 747s.

"Once there, guests will stay in luxury hotels where they will have access to Olympic-themed hospitality centers," he said. "Guests' days will be planned to the minute and they will be shuttled to Olympic events, meals and sight-seeing excursions on charter buses. The two-week-plus period of time also allows for this cycle to be repeated. Every four or five days, one group of guests will depart and another group of guests will arrive -- all in the name of furthering business connections."

Soonhwan Lee, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology in the IU School of Physical Education & Tourism Management, notes that sponsorship in sporting events has evolved in the changing environment of sports business over the past several decades. North American sponsors' investments in sporting events have increased from $300 million in 1980 to $11.66 billion in 2010. However, recent data show a decline of sponsorship spending due to the economic recession during 2010 and 2011.

"Even though there are variations in spending or strategies, sponsorship is still one of the most effective ways to promote brands and sponsor images in sporting events," Lee said. "The Olympic Games are known as an excellent example of the sport sponsorship phenomenon and have a long history with large spectatorship and extensive media coverage among the popular mega-sized international sporting event properties like the FIFA World Cup and Super Bowl.

"The Olympic Games are more than just a sporting event, as it is a major televised and spectator sporting event for global audiences," Lee said. "For this reason, the Olympic Games attract intensive investments from sponsors to maximize their sponsorship objectives."

To speak with Gladden or Lee, contact Rich Schneider at IU Communications, 317-278-4564 or Top

Highlighting the importance of adaptive sports

Jennifer Piatt

Jennifer Piatt

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Sport, an important component of U.S. culture, is often not experienced by a large number of adolescents with physical disabilities. Yet research has shown that sport engagement early on has positive health outcomes later in life for the adolescent with a physical disability, says Jennifer Piatt, assistant professor in the Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies Department of the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. This includes friendship development, athletic identity, quality of life and lifelong physical activity.

Obesity, often a result of a sedentary lifestyle, is at an all-time high among adolescents in America, and it's an even bigger concern for adolescents with physical disabilities. In fact, over the past three decades, obesity has almost tripled among adolescents with a disability when compared to their peers without a disability.

"Since the signing of the co-operation agreement between the International Paralympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee in 2000, the availability of adaptive sport has started to emerge through the development of Paralympic Sport Clubs but continues to be few and far between for many adolescents with physical disabilities," Piatt said. "This void of large numbers of athletes exists not only within the realm of organized Paralympic Sport Clubs but also in school-based athletic programs, club sports, community recreation leagues and summer sport camps."

A recent study by Piatt, examining a Paralympic Sport Club adaptive sport camp, demonstrated that adolescents with physical disabilities showed an increase in health-related quality of life when they participated in a residential adaptive sport camp.

"Encouraging participation in adaptive sport camps with others who have similar ability levels may have a future impact on sport across the lifespan, ultimately leading to a healthier lifestyle and fewer secondary health concerns," Piatt said. "Providing adaptive sport programs that are similar to the traditional sport programs for adolescents within the United States is logical and ultimately will promote a step closer to equality."

This spring, Piatt and Mary Sara Wells of the University of Utah presented research findings about adaptive sports at the Developing Amazing Leaders Conference sponsored by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. They are currently developing a research agenda for further study of the value of sports participation for people with disabilities.

Piatt may be contacted at 812-855-7819 or Top

IU artist's print on display


Edward Bernstein's "Illuminata"

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A print by Indiana University professor Edward Bernstein will be on display in London as part of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

His work, "Illuminata," is a mixed media archival inkjet print and soft pastel on Hahnemuhle German Etching paper measuring 40 by 60 inches. The work was shipped to Beijing in late March, where it was framed and then sent on to London.

The competitive international exhibition at London's Barbican Centre is sponsored by the Chinese Olympic Fine Arts Committee, since Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Bernstein received an honorarium that will enable him and his wife to visit London in early August to see his work on display.

"I am lucky they chose my piece," he said, citing his belief that a former graduate student who studied printmaking at IU and continues to be very active in China suggested his name for inclusion in the exhibition. "It's a huge honor to have my work displayed at such an international event."

Bernstein is professor of art and head of printmaking at IU's Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, which is part of the university's College of Arts and Sciences.

Bernstein can be reached at 812-855-7766 or . Top

Legal issues, athlete eligibility

Gary R. Roberts

Gary R. Roberts

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Gary R. Roberts, dean and Gerald L. Bepko Professor of Law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, is available to comment on legal issues related to the Olympic Games.

Roberts says the only legal issues likely to arise have to do with the eligibility or disqualification of athletes. While athletes are most likely to be disqualified as a result of a positive drug test, there are a range of reasons why an athlete might be ruled ineligible.

Roberts may be reached at 317-274-2581 or For assistance, contact Liz Allington at 317-278-3038 or Top

National identity trumps normal fan allegiances

U.S. sports fans typically devote their enthusiasm to the professional franchises or college teams that they follow. But when the Olympics roll around, we're quick to shift our loyalty to Team USA.

For many people, allegiance to a particular sports team contributes strongly to their identity, says Ed Hirt, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences.

"Fanship is such a powerful force," he said. "It shows up in our emotions, our feelings about who we are, the clothes we wear, our bumper stickers and the way we furnish our offices. Typically this allegiance is to local and regional teams. But in the Olympics, national identity becomes salient."

Hirt notes that the trappings of the Olympics contribute to national identification. The opening ceremony is a showcase for national pride, flags are everywhere, and national anthems are played to honor the winners of each event.

An interesting question is how fans deal with competing loyalties. For example, eight current or former Indiana University athletes are in this year's games, but only two will compete for the USA. Will fans cheer for IU swimmers representing France, Ukraine, Hungary and the Dominican Republic or for the American favorites? And how do you feel when someone from a rival team represents your nation? Will Cleveland Cavaliers fans back the USA men's basketball team, even with LeBron James?

Hirt can also discuss the following issues related to the Olympics:

  • The propensity of some individuals for "self-handicapping," which occurs when a person engaging in a high-stakes performance creates an excuse for failure before the situation occurs.
  • Research showing that Olympians who win silver medals are less satisfied than those who win bronze. Hirt notes runners-up may focus on how close they were to gold. But those who place third realize they were close to failing to medal. "The worst position to be in is fourth," he said.

A video of Hirt talking about his research is at available online. Contact him at 812-855-4815 or Top

Making it all work

Multiple factors are required to successfully pull off a giant and closely watched event like the Olympic Games, said Amanda Cecil, assistant professor in the Tourism, Conventions and Event Management Department of the IU School of Physical Education & Tourism Management at IUPUI. Critical factors include:

  • Volunteers: Thousands of diverse volunteers are needed to assist with international guests, and they must speak different languages and understand different cultures.
  • Mass transportation: Moving large number of visitors through the region efficiently is critical. So many events are going on at so many different venues, the destination has to be prepared to move guests around the area. This requires extensive planning.
  • Communication: The hospitality community and the event organizers must communicate all the time. To assist guests, the front-line hospitality associate must relay timely information to the visitors. This requires a system that can be proactive and reactive.
  • Risk and crisis management: An event such as the Olympics must create and implement a detailed and comprehensive risk management plan. The goal is to avoid any and all risks; however, that is not always possible. Therefore, responding to a crisis becomes very important.

Cecil added that everything about the operation of the Olympics will be subject to close scrutiny by the news media, adding to the pressure on organizers, staff and volunteers. "The eyes of the world are on this event, which can be great if the event is flawless," she said. "We will be watching to see how London performs as a destination and how guests respond to their experience at the games."

To speak with Cecil, contact Rich Schneider at IU Communications, 317-278-4564 or Top

The dreaded 'choke'

Robert J. Rydell

Robert J. Rydell

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Elite athletes rarely make it to the top without spending a tremendous amount of time honing their skill, practicing the elements of their sport over and over. Placed in a high-pressure situation, however, they can find themselves thinking through the movements they normally would perform unconsciously, with the extra thought resulting in the dreaded "choke."

"If you're a musician who's spent thousands and thousands of hours practicing, or a swimmer who's trained for years, the body does these tasks automatically; it becomes routine," said Robert J. Rydell, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences. "That act of thinking about it hurts your performance because it actually breaks down the patterns that you've developed, the skills that you've learned."

Rydell's research focuses on the effect negative stereotypes can have on performance, particularly test-taking and learning. His research is finding that knowledge of what's expected can hurt someone who is part of a stereotyped group if they are aware of the negative stereotype.

He also saw this effect in a study involving elite male golfers. Despite their skill and years of practice, their putting suffered after they were told that women putted better than men. The information made them think more about their own skills.

"You can hurt your performance by making something that is unconscious, conscious," Rydell said.

Rydell can be reached at 812-855-7608 and Top

Drug testing a contentious topic

James Klaunig

James E. Klaunig

One of the most contentious and important aspects of sports medicine at the Olympics is drug screening -- important enough that the International Olympic Committee is prepared to test all medalists and as many as half of all the competitors. That's an estimated 6,000 samples. More than 150 scientists will be involved with the sampling because the IOC is looking at a 24-hour turnaround for results.

Testing will take place at the London 2012 lab in Harlow, Essex, with the scientists led by David Cowan, founding director of the Department of Forensic Science and Drug Monitoring at King's College, London.

James E. Klaunig, professor of environmental health at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and former director of the Indiana State Toxicology Laboratory, said the testing will look at more than 240 prohibited substances that have been linked to performance enhancement including anabolic steroids, which contribute to muscle mass and strength, and agents that increase the amount of oxygen in tissues, thus increasing endurance.

Klaunig is available to discuss the testing process, the effects of the substances banned by the IOC and other laboratory details. He can be reached by email at or Top