A PROJECT WITH A NATIONAL AND GLOBAL IMPACT
In 2024, for the first time in 100 years, the Summer Olympic Games will be held in France. For this occasion, Laura Flessel, the French Minister of Sport, has set a goal for French athletes to double the number of medals won at the last Olympics. She has also set a national target to get 15 gold medals in the Paralympic Games. To meet this challenge, Claude Onesta, former coach of the French handball team, has been assigned to work on "Performance 2024", taking performance in sport to the next level.
Wishing to contribute to this initiative, Christophe Clanet, Director of Research at CNRS, but also director of the hydrodynamics laboratory (LadHyX, École Polytechnique/CNRS) and leader of the initiative "Physics of sport and disabled sports" at the École Polytechnique, has offered his support to "Performance 2024" by rallying together 11 selective higher educational and research establishments along with the CNRS to create Sciences 2024.
For the first time, fundamental sciences have come together to help French athletes in their quest for Olympic medals. At a time when winning first place on the podium can sometimes depend on a fraction of a second, all factors must be optimized.
Sciences 2024 enables teams from France to find solutions for issues that they have identified by analyzing disciplines and areas where science can contribute to improvements in performance. This initiative aims at developing innovative "scientific products" in sciences such as Physics, Mathematics and Sports Engineering for high-level athletes.
Thanks to support from the French Army, the number one employer of high-level athletes, researchers and students have taken time out to meet sports federations, directly on the sports field. This initiative aims at identifying relevant issues so that they can then be studied in laboratories to provide real answers to athletes on how they can improve their performance.
GOALS BEYOND THE 2024 GAMES
The benefits of Science 2024 won’t be confined to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris. Beyond this date, the initiative aims at strengthening the links between research and the sporting world, but also at developing innovation in sports-related sciences such as Biomechanics, Biometrics, big data, measuring sensors or even in virtual reality, and for new developments in the textiles and materials.
ABOUT SCIENCES 2024...
Sciences 2024 is a collective research program to assist French athletes in their quest for medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris 2024. The project took off following a discussion with Frank Pacard, Director of Education and Research of the École Polytechnique after France was awarded the 2024 Olympic games. There are 40 Olympic and 20 Paralympic disciplines. If we want to get involved in the Games, we have to be able to deal with hundreds of subjects over the next six years. Because L’X could not carry out such a project alone, we decided to open this research program up to academic partners and the army, so that they could work together on these scientific and sporting goals.
WHAT CAN SCIENCE BRING TO ATHLETES?
To answer your question, I’m going to take two examples: in rowing, rowers must synchronize. Currently, rowing coaches have to rely on their eyes to correct the team if their bodies or oars are not in unison. What coaches need is for science to provide them with a tool to measure their team’s synchronicity, enabling them to measure their progress over the course of time.
The second example is completely different: in wheelchair racing, it all depends on the choice of tires: if they are too wide they cause too much friction. Too thin, and they sink into the synthetic material of the track, again causing a lot of friction. You need to get the balance right. What athletes want is for science to work out what this balance is and then to provide them with a rule so that they can adapt the tires to each track they compete on.
These two examples show that there is not just one scientific answer to these issues and that scientific solutions depend on the questions raised by athletes.
WHAT IS THE REAL OBJECTIVE OF THIS PROGRAM?
The objective set by the French Minister of Sports, Laura Flessel is to double the number of medals won at the Olympic Games (from 40 to 80) and to get 15 Gold medals at the Paralympic Games. To achieve this goal, every initiative will count, and this includes science.
The intention of Sciences 2024 is to provide answers to athletes’ questions: in a very factual way, researchers working on the Sciences 2024 initiative have ventured out onto sports fields to discuss with sportspeople (coaches and athletes) to identify the topics that scientists can help them with. These questions are then dealt with in the labs, and feedback is given to the athletes. This enables them to optimize their training equipment and (with a little luck) their performance. The academic disciplines working on these issues are Physics, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics.
The final goal is also to establish long-lasting links between science and sport. Prior to the 2024 Olympic games in Paris, we will focus on the issues faced by athletes. Some of the projects developed within this framework will be extended after the Olympic Games in Paris, in particular by creating start-ups. The program also aims at developing interest in working in science amongst young people. To do this, educational packs for high schools and university students have been designed and distributed to illustrate how subjects like Physics and Mathematics can be taught through sport.
WHERE DOES THIS LINK BETWEEN SPORT AND SCIENCE COME FROM?
Over the last 8 years, the École Polytechnique has given great importance to sport and science in the training of our students, investing heavily in the physics of sport and disability sports. When Paris was given the opportunity to hold the Olympics, we were ready to rise to this team challenge. Today, Sciences 2024 has brought together 11 Grandes Écoles, about fifty researchers and over a hundred students to work on the many topics that athletes have entrusted us with.
- 12 partners: École Polytechnique, CNRS, ENS Paris, ENS de Lyon, ENS Rennes, École Centrale de Lyon, INSA Lyon, Arts et Métiers, ENSTA ParisTech, ESPCI Paris, École Navale and École des Ponts ParisTech
- 400 Student projects
- 100 Research projects
- 50 Post doctoral researchers
- 3 Related ministries: Department of Sports - Department of Higher Education, Research and Innovation - Department of The French Armed Forces