6 August 2008 - Plastics are olympic

August 2008, Olympic Games: Tens of thousands of people in the stadium and billions watching on TV as the athletes in Bejing strive to achieve the Olympic motto: faster, higher, further ("citius – altius – fortius"). And plastics are involved in nearly all top performances.

Plastics have been indispensible for a long time - whether to top athletes or to occasional joggers. All Olympic boat classes were made of plastic. Sails, rudders and paddles were made of plastic. The tracks on which athletes pursue new records, just like the shoes, the clothing and lots, lots more – are all made of plastic. And in the stadiums, whether water and drainage pipes, seats or the roof – very little would function without plastic. Here are a few examples.

Ball games
Large, small, fast, slow, soft, hard, rigid or flexible balls: Equipment made of polymer materials is used in nearly every type of ballgame these days. This also applies to football: The "leather ball" has not been made of leather for decades. In the course of numerous innovations in the development of materials, a completely new concept has arisen for the production of footballs, known as "thermal bonding". This ensures consistent quality and performance, ball after ball.

The materials used by both amateur and professional sportspersons are becoming increasingly similar. Even the main piece of an athlete's sports "equipment", the shoe, is much the same, be it an amateur or a professional. Nevertheless, there are different types of shoes. While weekend joggers place importance on cushioning of jolts, foot support and, last but not least, longevity, the professional sprinter mostly looks for minimum weight and best traction – if you want to win, you've got to wear the right shoe. Depending on the type of sport and specific requirements, the range of plastics used is extremely varied.

Road sports
Road sports have a long tradition. The minimum weight of a racing bike is 6.8 kg and a time trial bike weighs virtually no more than that. Olympic gold medallists and world champions ride on carbon frames. Carbon fibres provide strength, plastic resin provides stability. The decisive advantage of this frame concept is its excellent aerodynamics.

Water sports
Water sports and plastics have been partners for a long time. Sailing boats, sails and rigging, for instance, are made of polyester, polyamide or aramid. And just like the rowing boats: the best competitors' boats consist exclusively of fibre-reinforced plastics – sturdy, light and fast. When it comes to canoes, you can hardly image them without plastics.

Diving is a sport for aesthetic types: the grace of the divers as they step along the springboard, aligning their toes carefully at the edge of the board with maximum concentration, the tensioning of the muscles in the body before finally diving out – into plastic. It is hardly ever displayed in public, but part of everyday training. Divers, in fact, train most of their dives in pools full of plastic.

Plastics are the pioneers of ecological progress. They protect our environment by insulating our houses more economically and efficiently, providing light and safe packaging for our goods, making our cars lighter and quieter and helping to use sun and wind as a source of power. Other examples: A flat screen saves a considerable amount of electricity in comparison to standard cathode ray tubes, alternative drive concepts for automobiles secure our individual mobility in the future. Even when plastic products reach the end of their often very long life, they still have a lot to offer: They can be recycled in three different ways, as a finished product, as a raw material and as a source of energy. The environment always gains when we use plastics.

Sport is highly innovative – materials used are being continuously developed further and optimised. This constant endeavour to improve is often backed by the research and development efforts of big multinationals – including some whose activities may actually be in a completely different sector. At the Paralympics in Athens, Wojtek Czyz won the gold medal for the 100 metres in a sensational 12.51 seconds, won gold in the long jump with a world record distance of 6.23 metres and was also winner over the 200 metres distance. An above-the-knee amputee, this top athlete achieved this success with an artificial limb that was partly developed by the European Space Agency (esa).

Word document of Press release

Editors' note:
PlasticsEurope is one of the leading European trade associations with centres in Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Paris. We are networking with European and national plastics associations and have more than 100 member companies, producing over 90% of all polymers across the EU27 member states plus Norway, Switzerland, Croatia and Turkey.

The European plastics industry makes a significant contribution to the welfare in Europe by enabling innovation, creating quality of life to citizens and facilitating resource efficiency and climate protection. More than 1.6 million people are working in about 50.000 companies (mainly small and medium sized companies in the converting sector) to create a turnover in excess of 280 billion € per year.

The plastics industry includes polymer producers - represented by PlasticsEurope, converters - represented by EuPC and machine manufacturers - represented by EUROMAP. For further info see the web links: www.plasticseurope.org, www.plasticsconverters.eu, www.euromap.org