By Mark Kinver
BBC News Online
The Olympics in Athens look set to be the most technologically advanced in the Games' history.
Technology is helping athletes reach new heights
The development of sports science in recent times has allowed athletes to prepare for this Olympiad using technology beyond their predecessors' wildest dreams.
But some question whether the influence of technology on training and performances is undermining the spirit of the modern Games, as it returns to the birthplace of the ancient Olympics.
Almost 70% of people questioned in a poll believed that athletes with access to the latest technology did have an advantage over those who did not.
The survey by pollsters Populus was commissioned by the Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) as part of their Engineering in the Olympics campaign to promote the sector's role in achieving sporting success.
Sport's record books show that the development of man-made materials has had a dramatic effect on some sports, such as pole vaulting.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, athletes were using wooden poles to clear the bar. Within a decade, they were using the best nature had to offer, bamboo.
The reduction in weight meant athletes were able to reach higher speeds and achieve greater heights. But once they had perfected their technique, competitors struggled to set new records.
The introduction in the 1960s of fibre-glass, and eventually carbon-fibre, poles meant the records again began to tumble. Vaulters now find that their nerve, as well as the limitations of the pole, determine how high they go.
Talent vs technology
UK Sport technical advisor Scott Drawer feels too much emphasis is placed on technology's ability to deliver medals. For him, the key factor is talent.
"No matter what you do with technology, it is still in the hands of the coach," he told BBC News Online.
"The advantage is how the coach uses the information technology can deliver. The innovation is in the mind of a talented coach."
TEAM GB SPECIFICATIONS
Chris Hoy's track bike
Complete bike weight: 6.9kg
Frame weight: 1.6kg
Material: High grade carbon-fibre with super tough epoxy resin ACG MTM28
Top tube length: 57cm
Seat tube length: 50cm
Fork: One piece carbon-fibre
Wheels: Carbon-fibre double discs
Handlebar/stem: One piece carbon-fibre
Tyres: Silk tubulars (180g each)
For Team GB's bike designer, Dimitris Katsanis, the knowledge and experience of the cycling team helped shape the final design.
"We all sit down in a meeting, myself, the coaches and the performance director of British Cycling, where we set down the basic requirements," he said.
"Then I go away and work on ideas, which very often are based upon what the athletes or coaches have come up with."
As the designer of the bikes for British cyclists competing in Athens, Mr Katsanis said the devil was in the detail.
"Because of the regulations, you could not go and have something revolutionary.
"The improvements I had to look for came from careful engineering, design and the use of the latest materials. We looked for a few 1,000th of a second saving here and a few 1,000th of a second there."
Sport for all
The advances in sport science have created an opportunity for those who, in the past, have been excluded from the elite level of sport: disabled people.
At the last Paralympics in Sydney, the US's Marlon Shirley set a new amputee world record for the 100m with a time of 11.09 seconds.
Paralympians like Marlon Shirley benefit from technological advances
Last year, he became the first amputee in history to break the 11 second barrier.
His hi-tech prosthetic leg, made from aluminium and carbon-fibre, has allowed him to train alongside his peers in the national Olympic sprint team in the build-up to Athens.
There is also an expectation that Mr Shirley will break the 10.60 second benchmark that will allow him to compete alongside able-bodied sprinters in the US national finals.
UK Sport is involved in a pilot project that aims to take a recent development within cycling and use it in wheelchair racing.
"We brought cycling and Disability Athletics together," said Mr Drawer, "to work with some of the experts from British Cycling to see how they could take advantage of some of the latest technology.
"There is [a crank] that measures torque across the sprockets on the wheel. It lets you know how much power you are applying. They are looking at applying this to wheelchair racing.
"It will allow much more accurate measurements of the workload on the athlete."
The phrase "event dependent" quickly emerges when examining the level of influence technology has on sport.
"If you take something like the 100m, the times people are achieving have been pretty stubbornly stuck for a number of years," explained the ETB's Mike Gannaway
"Those sports which are more technology dependent, that is where you are seeing the major strides taking place."