School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems


The University of New South Wales


An Analysis of Geomatics in Sport


By Rod Jamison


Supervised by  Prof. C.A. Roberts


October 2004  





The aim of this thesis is to investigate the techniques that are currently being utilized and that could potentially be used in a number of sports.  It will report on developments in geomatics for sporting applications.  An analysis of the instruments and techniques will be undertaken.  Measuring methodologies will also be critiqued using error analysis.  A report will be conducted as to confirm or disprove that the method used meets the accuracy requirements when governed by a sporting body, and the impact that this could have upon the sport.


Secondary objective is to explore surveying technologies that have been used in the Olympics, most notably the Sydney 2000 Olympics ranging from setting out the main Olympic track, to measuring during events.


Surveying in Cricket


Cricket and surveying have strong links, extending back to a time where the common length of a cricket pitch was one of the most readily available measurements for surveyors namely one chain.  Nowadays surveying technologies are used to greatly increase the interest generated within the game of cricket. 

Developments by United Kingdom company Hawkeye© (Hawkeye Innovations:, which are being used under license by Channel 9 for their cricket broadcasts, have added a marked improvement to the visuals achievable for the game.  The system in place now allows for measurements to be taken of positions of players and balls on the pitch, predicted lines of deliveries, swing achieved and many more facets which are of benefit to spectators, coaches as well as officials.  The technology of the Hawkeye© system allows measurements to be taken in real time and entire matches to be stored upon computer hard disks for post match analysis. 

This system has had a very large impact upon the cricketing coaches and officials, who can view such things as whether a ball would have struck the wickets in the case of leg before wickets (lbw).  Coaches can use the system to simulate match conditions against different opponents and develop competitive strategies to improve performance in a match.

Figure 1: Hawkeye (c) cricket visualisation module (Hawkeye Innovations, 2004)

Surveying the Olympics


Surveying within the Olympics has become an inevitable combination.  Surveyors are measurement scientists.  Where precise measurement is required,   surveyors are used for determining the length of the marathon by various means, to determining the distance a hammer or javelin is thrown, the length a long jumper has jumped or a height that a pole vaulter has cleared.  Surveying within the Sydney Olympics began with the design and layout of the Olympic site, the setting out of the track, as well as many other facets that shall be dealt with later within this thesis.


Long jump and triple jump events


For the majority of the Sydney 2000 Olympics (upon which these topics are mainly based) it was mainly Leica instruments (total stations, theodolites) that were used.

Figure 2: Leica Track & Field Manual measuring long jump (Leica 2004)

Essentially the distance that needs to be recorded for both the long jump and triple jump is the distance perpendicular to the „foul lineš.  Should this be attempted to be measured by tape difficulties would arise if the jumpers‚ position, is not within the perpendicular range of the lane designated for the long jump and triple jump events (see figure 2). From a surveyors perspective this is quite clear and therefore others steps were taken to permit surveyors to measure these events.


Initially a program was designed to assist in measuring these events.  The program works by defining a baseline along the „foul lineš. Once this baseline has been defined it was then capable of determining an offset from this baseline and reporting this information to the relevant officials.

Figure 3: Targets positioned on Long jump foul line (A. Patterson)


Figure 3 clearly shows the targets that have been utilized are retro reflective tape. This definition of the baseline occurred before any competitors had jumped, and was checked at the conclusion of the event. The measurement to these baseline points occurred in two faces, with an average of three distance measurements for each face.


The target that was utilized to measure the jumps into the sand pit area was a wire stick with an attached retro reflective tape. Single face angles were measured, with an average of three distances providing the distance jumped to be displayed.

Figure 4: Reflective target in pit area. (A. Patterson)

Pole Vault

The pole vault event at the Olympics has required surveyors to devise new methods of obtaining the height of the bar.  There are inherent difficulties involved for measuring this event effectively meaning that a remote height solution could not be easily resolved. This arises as the horizontal bar that the pole vaulters attempt to clear can be moved in a horizontal direction after each set up

The initial program was designed by Leica to be used in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  The program that was devised is indeed very clever and can have applications for surveyors outside of Olympic applications. The methodology requires that a three point datum be defined at the top of the pole vaulters launch pit (See Figure 5)

Figure 5: Pole Vault launch pit. (A. Patterson)

It can be seen in the above figure that the launch pit is angled with respect to the Olympic track.  A datum of elevation zero (0) is defined by measuring three points at the top of this launch pit. This can be done by either reflectorless means or by utilizing a miniprism or similar device. Once a datum has been established for this launch pit, it can be verified by measuring to another point on top of the launch pit to ascertain that the height recorded is in fact zero (0). 

This should be enough data to interpret the height of the bar that the vaulters are attempting to clear.  However, as previously mentioned the horizontal bar and the supports on which the bar rests can be moved several centimeters between each time the bar is disturbed.

Figure 6: Pole Vault. (Leica - Short track & field manual)

To overcome this problem two base point measurements are taken to determine the horizontal position of the bar in reference to the previously defined datum.  These targets are typically retro reflective tape discretely placed so as to not alert the vaulter to their presence.  Further to this point a pole offset measurement can be entered. This allows for a more accurate approach to determining the height that is being attempted. The pole offset can be a value as great as 200mm (IAAF Ų Competition Rules). The final measurement that takes place is a zenith angle measurement that is taken to the top of the typically sagging bar. The reason for this is that the bar is prone to natural sagging due to the non rigidity that is required so as to meet standards set by the IAAF. The IAAF dictates that a bar cannot sag more than 110mm for the pole vault event (IAAF Ų Competition Rules).

The height is reported to the nearest whole centimeter.  The height is scaled down, for instance 6.215m would be reported as a height of 6.21m. The measurement of 6.215m would never be seen by the athlete, nor the surveyor without delving into the program. Only whole centimeter units are reported.

Future uses of Surveying Technologies


The vision that is foreseen to occur within the sporting medium is one of complete immersion.  As spectators become more and more intrigued by the many facets available in sport, their demands for entertainment pleasure are becoming greater and greater.  Take for example Foxtel © and the new digital subscription available.  For sporting events this means multiple camera angle availability, a large array of statistics for teams and players available on demand. Foxtel© in my view has paved the way for the future integration of the user (sports spectator) into the match itself.

Within the next few years users will be able to see the match being played from each individual persons viewpoint, much like in car racing where small cameras have been mounted on the vehicles enabling the viewer to have the same view as that of the driver.  To take this one step further into the realm of entertainment, track data could be sent through to the next wave of video game consoles.  Already highly advanced modeling has occurred on real streets and been implemented into video games (Project Gotham 2 - car racing game).  This particular game has a track of a Sydney loop road underneath the harbour bridge, thousands of photographs were taken in synchronization with the spatial data, to accurately model and give the feel of the Sydney streetscape.

A complete integration of spatial data into that of the media available for sport is an inevitable transition. The current trends of more and more spatial data being utilized to make the sporting media more available and accepting of spectators which in turns creates more sponsorship opportunities giving financial incentives for developers to create new ways of presenting spatial data.




Geomatics is being widely used across a range of sports.  Whilst not always being used in a traditional manner, theory exists behind the techniques being used and developed that extends to early surveying principles.

The Olympics has the greatest traditional use of instruments occurring in a sporting event.  Total stations are being used in events ranging from horizontal jumping, vertical jumping and throwing events.  Techniques developed for these events can have applications of a non sporting use.  The methodologies that are being used in these events exceed the expectations and accuracy requirements allowed for by the IAAF.


The integration of cameras and measuring for use in sports such as cricket, tennis and baseball is a very successful merger.  Presently they are being used to increase the enhancement of the spectator, and not used in a governing way by any sporting body.  However, should further development prove to be successful and willingness is shown by the governing bodies, then these developments could be put into a controlling use.


Surveying continues to be integrated into sporting events and this trend should continue and increase in the next few years at least.




Hawkeye Innovations, 2004, The use of hawk-eye to aid a cricket umpire

Hawkeye Innovations, 2004, Hawkeye 3D virtual reality, viewed October 2004,

IAAF, International Association of Athletics Federation, viewed October 2004,

IAAF, 2004, The Measurement of Road Race Courses, viewed October 2004,

IAAF, 2003, IAAF Competition Rules 2004-2005 Final Revised Edition Ų December 2003,

Imaging Source, An introduction to Cameras, viewed October 2004

Leica, 2004, Leica‚s track & field programs, Leica-Geosystems, viewed October 2004,

Lecia, 2004, Leica Industrial theodolites and total stations, viewed October 2004,

Leica, 2004, Leica-Geosystems Website, viewed October 2004,

Olympic Movement, The official website of the Olympic movement, viewed October 2004,

Patterson A, Damina J, 2001, Measuring spears, cannonballs and other projectiles, Surveying Scope, January

Roke Manor Research Limited, 2004, Intelligent visual analysis for sports production, United Kingdom

Rüeger, J.M, 1996, Electronic Distance Measurement Ų An introduction, Springer, Germany.

Stenmark, J RLS & Baertlein, H, 1996, Measuring up Ų Advanced surveying technology reaches new heights in track and field, Surveying Australia.


Further Information

For more information, please contact:


C.A. Roberts




School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems

University of New South Wales




Phone: +61-2-9385-4188

Fax: +61-2-9313-7493



Mr. R. Jamison