London Olympic Stadium and Mondo Tracks
What would Bob Hayes or Ben Johnson run on today’s new artificial track surfaces?
Mondo has been around since the 1976 Montreal Olympics for Track & Field (i.e. Athletics), but Beijing 2008 was the first time using the new “Mondotrack”. By the way, the Rome Olympic stadium is BASF Conica, not Mondo.
Like the Speedo LZR swimsuits, the new Mondotrack from Mondo gives sprinters a technological advantage.
We witnessed World Records in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4×100 meter relay in Beijing. In addition, we saw a Personal Best for Lashawn Merritt in the 400m.
The IAAF has standards for track measurements. It specifies a 400m or 1312.34 feet (minimum distance) track, measured along the measure line of lane one, with two curves of equal radius measuring 36.80m and two straightaways measuring 84.39m.
For hardness, the previous IAAF acceptable standard was between 28 – 80 representing the percent of force reduction. The lower the number, the harder the surface. Valery Borzov complained about the Munich track being “mushy”. The 1991 World Championships in Tokyo measured “13”, and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (which no longer exist as a new home for the Atlanta Braves) measured “11”. You may recall 6 men going under 10 seconds in Tokyo, and Donovan Bailey and Michael Johnson both setting world records in the 100 and 200 meters respectively.
At least Seoul 1988 was a respectable “32” in hardness.
The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were the last Olympics run on cinder tracks, with Mexico 1968 being the first with artificial surfaces.
So I’ll repeat myself here: What would Bob Hayes or Ben Johnson run on today’s new artificial track surfaces?
London Olympic Stadium and Mondo
So, how hard is the London Olympic track?
Sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey has a habit of dropping a cricket ball on every track before he races.
“On a normal track, it bounces to knee height. On [the London] Mondo track, it comes up to your hip, so everything you put into it, you get back” quotes Harry.
The new IAAF standard for track hardness is a 35-50% force reduction, and London’s track measured at “38”.
The problem is, what is good for sprinters, it’s bad for distance runners. Haile Gebrselassie complained about the track being so hard in Atlanta 1996 his feet were full of blood and blisters after the 10,000 meters on the track.
Screw the distance runners… people want to see world records in the sprints, right?
But how are they able to have that “hardness” quality despite being “soft”?
The secret is underneath the patented, vulcanized hexagonal backing track surface that is one of the keys to force reduction and hence, energy return. (see the Infographic at the end of the article)
To review 2 important laws of Physics:
First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed
Newton’s third laws of motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
The Mondotrack manages to do this 3 ways:
- It optimizes the force in the compression and the energy is returned to the athlete. Less wasted energy is from forces going equal and opposite directions
- the downward force causes a vertical compression providing a cushioning from the “cells”, so the pressure on the foot decreases.
- the lateral forces also provide cushioning as well as support from the “cells”
The end result is a “softer” feel results that also increases flight time, step length, energy return during ground contact area. With less pressure on the feet, distance runners will benefit in comfort from the track, but not sacrifice performance.