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One month to AthTech
The Athletics Technology Conference, on the future of the sport, is free to all and open for registration
There’s just over a month to go to the Athletics Technology Conference in Malta (September 21/22). The agenda is largely settled and looking fascinating, and we have almost 80 people registered from 32 countries. As co-founders and organisers, we’re happy to explain a little more of the history behind this unique event, and to try to encourage you to join us and make it the biggest and best yet!
How can I attend?
AthTech is FREE TO ATTEND and is organised by European Athletics. All you have to do is register, pay for your flight, and book accommodation either in the conference hotel or nearby. The conference is all day Thursday and Friday morning, so why not stay the weekend in beautiful Malta? Just register on OpenTrack below. (The conference website is here, with proceedings from past conference as well)
What is AthTech?
In brief, it’s the Athletics Technology Conference - a biennial event sponsored and funded by European Athletics. This is where everyone involved in “making the sport work” behind the scenes gets together to explain what they have been doing, at all levels, to share ideas and cooperate, and to see where we can interoperate. There’s a bit more on the history below.
Past conferences focused on standards and data, interoperability and data exchange, and timing and measuring innovations.
This year, the focus is going to be on all the exciting things being done with the content generated. What’s happening, at top level and at grass roots level, to make athletics more engaging for fans and participants? How are new digital systems helping to promote and grow the sport, and to provide better economics for clubs and federations? Come and hear from…
World and European Athletics’ plans and innovations
top experts on digital content
a panel on how Artificial Intelligence might impact the sport in future
the major service providers and innovators
30+ national federations
hands-on sessions getting to grips with the data World Athletics is sharing
AthTech started in September 2016. Andrew Robinson and his software company had just been through a European-Union-funded incubator for ideas involving Open Data in Athletics, taking third place in a funded contest of 150 startups, and OpenTrack the company was about to be registered. During the incubation period, he was introduced to Martin Alvarez Espinar, a distance runner who ran the World Wide Web Consortium’s Spanish Office, and helped to create global standards. In August 2016 Andy met Nicolas Launois, European Athletics’ head of Digital and Data, and ideas quickly meshed.
That autumn, the Open Data Conference was taking place in Madrid, and the organisers kindly allowed us to add a track on Open Data in Athletics. At just six weeks notice, we pulled together a programme and got people attending from about 15 countries! It was the first time the people behind the scenes - managing stats and rankings, producing competition management systems, or trying to manage national federations’ data - had been able to meet and talk. We all realised we had the same problems, and could perhaps cooperate to solve them. And the energy was electric!
We capped it all with a dinner in Plaza Maior in downtown Madrid - a just reward for all the people who so often go unrecognized while working hard to “make the sport work” in their respective countries.
We all realised that a forum was needed to keep this community together, and an informal working group was founded under the W3C’s process to work towards common standards and data-sharing in athletics, with monthly online meetings.
2017 - Monto Gordo, Portugal
The second time around, we had a little more time, and the Athletics Association of the Algarve in Portugal were great hosts. The Talks archive is here . The big topic at the time was GDPR and how it would impact us all. People from 17 countries came together to form a common policy and approach on GDPR in athletics - basically defining the data we have always needed to store, and would need to continue to store, in order to manage the sport. This was enshrined in a common data protection guidelines
In addition to this, we had what has now become a pattern…
morning runs on the beautiful Castro Marim golf course
a “technology show” at the stadium with firms showing their latest and greatest timing and measuring equipment.
an absolutely amazing dinner overlooking the sea (and tasting half the things found in it…)
2018 - Gijon, Spain - World Athletics joins the party
AthTech #3 moved to Martin Alvarez’s home town in northern Spain. We were blessed with unusually beautiful weather.
An Dang Duy, the World Athletics new Chief Technology Officer, attended for the first time and gave a Keynote talk. An was impressed to see how much had been going on in Europe to “get people talking”, form common standards and to interoperate, and resolved there and then that World Athletics would work with EA and our working group, rather than (as had happened too often in the past) starting parallel programmes of activity.
This time, the “hands-on” section involved a relay race just outside the hotel, in “PolyLauf” style - distance is fixed, but number or runners depends on ability, with large teams of local kids taking on the top 2-3 distance runners, and some conference speakers letting off steam afterwards. Meanwhile, firms present got to try out their sensing and timing equipment, as we discussed and played with “sending splits data into the sky” and how best to distribute it. The results (especially those of the author) were conveniently forgotten over local delicacies and lashings of cider (the traditional local drink)
2021 - Zadar, Croatia
After a brief pause for a global pandemic, things resumed in September 2021 in Zadar, Croatia. Duje Bonacci (https://trackmeetings.info/) pulled together a great facility at Zadar University, and a full EAP athletics meeting afterwards.
European Athletics took a big decision in 2021 to sponsor the conference at a new level, bringing in one delegate from every member federation at no cost, provided they had a relevant role and contribution to make. We had a fantastic turnout with 70 people, in the first in-person athletics conference since COVID. Some highlights included…
World Athletics unveiling their new calendar process in great detail
A fascinating talk on NFTs and how they might impact the sport, from a local digital art startup and from ATOS
If you look carefully through the meeting results, you will find a few conference delegates letting off some steam in the OpenTrack Masters Gala and EAP Meeting a couple of hours after the conference finished, prior to a dinner with guest of honour Ivan Vestić, Croatia’s athletics president.
Talks, slides and photos are available here…
2023 in Malta, and beyond
The event should now be held every two years. We’re on the lookout for hosts for 2025, so proposals are welcome. (Jamaica - your turn maybe? ;-) )
Why you should consider attending
If you are involved in the “nuts and bolts” of delivering athletics, this is a fantastic event where you can meet with your counterparts from many countries, and see what’s there to help you. We welcome people at any level in the sport. Once again, the conference is FREE - you just need to register, and organise your travel and local accommodation. Everything you need is on the event website
We strive to be inclusive and “bottom up”. If you have something to say or to share, let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will hopefully be able to give you at least a lightning talk slot.