mathematics in sport

With 500 days to go everyone here at the MMP is getting very excited about the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In July 2012 medals will be won, records broken and stories of triumph and tragedy will be told — and here at Plus we are looking forward to revealing the mathematics behind them.

Rising like a giant pringle from the Olympic Park construction site, the Velodrome is the first of the 2012 London Olympic venues to be completed. With its sweeping curved roof and beautiful cedar clad exterior the Velodrome is a stunning building. But what most of the athletes are excited about is the elegant wooden cycle track enclosed inside, the medals that will be won, and the records that might be broken, in the summer of 2012.

How large are the forces acting on a gymnast swinging on the high bar?

As London is heading for the 2012 Olympics, it's not just athletes who are gearing up for action. Engineers, too, are working hard to produce the cutting-edge sporting equipment that guarantees record performances. If you're a tennis player, your most important piece of equipment is your racket. Over recent decades new materials have made tennis rackets ever bigger, lighter and more powerful. So what kind of science goes into designing new rackets?

England's performance in the World Cup last summer was thankfully overshadowed by the attention given to Paul the octopus, who was reported as making an unbroken series of correct predictions of match winners. David Spiegelhalter looks at Paul's performance in an attempt to answer the question that (briefly) gripped the world: was Paul psychic?

This teacher package brings together all our articles that have to do with sport, from cricket to football and from the sport itself to sporting architecture and infrastructure.

In many sports a particular tactical conundrum arises. The team captain has to choose the best order in which to use a group of players or set-plays in the face of unknown counter choices by the opposition. Do you want to field the strongest players first to raise morale or play them last to produce a late run for victory? John D. Barrow shows that randomness holds the answer.

Renowned cosmologist and mathematician John D. Barrow has turned his attention to rowing, with intriguing results. As others did before him, Barrow noticed that the force generated by a rower in a boat has two components: one drives the boat forward and one to the side. Since the sideways motion represents wasted effort, rowers should be positioned in the boat so that it is minimised. So what exactly is the ideal positioning of rowers, the ideal rig?

A new mathematical analysis of team tactics predicts a Spanish win in Sunday's FIFA World Cup final and also sheds some light on why England were trashed by Germany.