Please tell us about what MYLAPS offers and about your role at MYLAPS.

MYLAPS, originally AMB-IT, was founded in 1982 as a way for twobrothers to solve an issue of how to time their radio-controlled cars through developing the first electronic timing system. In the 35+ years thereafter MYLAPS has specialised in developing timing systems and services for sport events and athletes. Our goal is to enhance the experience of the athlete. I have been with MYLAPS since 2006 and am currently the Managing Director of the 4 local MYLAPS offices in the Asia Pacific Region (Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Beijing). On a yearly basis, we estimate that more than 20 million athletes are being timed with our systems.

China version


Marathons and road races are being very popular in China and Hong Kong. How is MYLAPS involved in these markets?

We do see a steep increase in Marathon & Road racing participation in China and in Hong Kong. Most of the major city marathons in China (Xiamen, Beijing, Shanghai) and Hong Kong are using MYLAPS’ hardware and software to not only give athletes an accurate finish time and a split time every 5km, but also to deliver a great experience before, during and after the event with services like online registration, EventApps and photo/video.

What makes MYLAPS stand out from other similar products in the market, especially now that many phones and wearable devices offer the GPS tracking function?

Actually, you should ask our customers this questions!


In official races it is not possible to have each runner use their wearable device for an official timing as you will never be 100% sure on the accuracy of the device and the reliability. As an athlete, it is very interesting to compare your times (split times and finish times) with the professional athletes and so this information is shared via the official results. If an athlete was to share their own personal results from their device, it would be hard to compare times with others.


Next to that we offer full-suite solutions where we use the data collected by our timing systems for software services (apps, websites) to enhance the event experience. Think of the EventApp for running races, where spectators can follow the progress of their favorite runners live in a mobile app.


We are also a long-time player in the market and always in search of the next innovation in sports. Our products are used in a lot of high-end athletics and racing events, including the Olympic Games, Giro d’italia, Nascar, IndyCar, MotoGP and so on. These high-end events and customers are choosing us as we have the most accurate and most reliable systems. We are also already more than 35 years in the market and have therefore built up an enormous expertise in these markets.


How is China or Hong Kong different from other APAC regions, or even Europe regions, on the technical side of things?

The Hong Kong Marathon is one of the largest road races in the world. With around 74,000 participants, it is very important for the organiser to make sure that the loss of start and or finish-times is as low as possible. With our technology, the race organiser gets almost zero complaints on the timing part as we have the best detection rates in the world. This is one of the reasons why all these major marathons are choosing companies that utilise the MYLAPS technology.


On the technical side, in China, we do have challenges with our services as the social media platforms in China are so very different from that in the rest of the world. In China, there is no Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter available;  Android Phones are not supported by the Google App Store and Chinese users are not using apps a lot. They do use platforms like Weibo, WeChat and Youku though. Just getting our website up and running in China took us about 9 months due to all the procedural formalities that come with developing a website specifically for the Chinese market and having it approved.


We are currently in the process of getting our other services up and running for the Chinese market - having a local office in Beijing is an enormous help in that.


See for more background info on the Hong Kong Marathon here.

Race management can be difficult for outdoor road races in a new environment. What challenges has MYLAPS faced working in a new race location and what are the solutions?

We are very blessed with long-term partners who are aware of the Chinese market and the Chinese challenges. Our system is using 3G / 4G technology (and soon also 5G technology) to send the data from the 5km points back to the timing laptop. In new race locations you always have to verify which provider is the best for that.


Next to that, the setup time becomes more and more important. In the past you could close the roads hours before and after the race. Nowadays people in the larger cities would like to keep the roads accessible all the time which allows us less time for setting up our systems onsite. One of our latest innovations is a timing system which can be setup (and also cleared) within only a minute.

China version


Can you share with us some significant or interesting experience you had in China or Hong Kong races or sports events?

Basically in every event in China there is always something interesting happening. :)


An interesting one was a recent event we had in China. Few weeks before the event, the government swapped some working days and declared the Sunday, also the supposed event date, to be a working day, which meant that the race organizer had to move his race date to the Saturday right before it. Changing the event date so urgently is a nightmare to every event organiser… I lived for a couple of years in Malaysia and in there the same thing happens a lot. When a local soccer team wins an important match, the city government often declares the next day(s) to be a public holiday. This is something I had never seen in any other country before.


Another one was the massive disqualification of runners during a Chinese Half Marathon last year. This was all over the news and the Chinese Athletic Association banned these individual cheaters from the races for life. I have not seen situations like this in many other countries - a timing system with checkpoints on cut-off places is of great help for preventing this.

Also the delivery of the timing Systems after the race back to the collection place is sometimes a challenge as you can see in the enclosed photo. I do believe the truckdriver wanted to be home early…

Nowadays everything is about fan engagement. How does MYLAPS' technology also help engaging fans in events?

Fan engagement is getting more and more important. MYLAPS started about 4 years ago with new ways to enhance the experience for fans and also for athletes.


During a number of major marathons, we have introduced EventApps with Live Tracking and Live Photos. During this year’s Boston Marathon, we had more than 246,000 users of this app, while the number of participants is “just” around 27,000. On the race day, the average session duration of the users was 30 minutes, 38 seconds. The app was opened 856,900 times and users watched 18 screens per session on average, resulting in a dazzling total of 15.4 million screen views.


During last year’s Boston Marathon, there were 14,487 app users following the US athlete Shalane Flanagan. Of course, when you compare this to the fans of Michael Jordan that is not a lot, but for the running industry, this is really a record-breaking number as there are not a lot of celebrities in running (try it yourself - ask a random person passing by who is Eliud Kipchoge. I bet that less than 1% of the people are able to tell you that he is the world record holder of the marathon).


Furthermore we try to make it easy to share people’s progress via online channels like Facebook, Twitter and Wechat.

The technology of MYLAPS is usually B2B-based, do you plan on making it more B2C, maybe enable the public to track their own timings and statistics when they are training?

Our technology for the timing itself is B2B. However, we are currently also creating products more focused on individual consumers in an event. A great example is our free-to-use EventApp. Consumers like friends and family of racers can download this app and follow the racers. The service is paid by the event organiser, but it fully focuses on the consumers.

We have something similar for the motorized sports; there we work with “personal transponders.” Each racer buys her or his own timing transponder and is then able to track their progress over the years via their own Mylaps account where their results are stored. Through the free Speedhive app racers can see their results and we have some cool sharing features there as well. We do offer this functionality as well on cycling tracks and ice skating rinks all over the world.


Hong Kong is building a world-class smart sports park now. Do you think the technology of MYLAPS can be introduced and utilised here?

Yes. We are aware of this and we do believe our technology can bring the sports park some additional benefits, especially when you are talking about training facilities and permanent timing systems, as we are also introduced in the Hong Kong Velodrome and on many other high-end sport facilities all over the world.


Know more about MYLAPS: http://mylaps.com


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The Business Of Sport Network is hosting a networking event with a presentation on sport tech trends by Jonny Stark. Contact us to reserve your spot if you haven't.



Tell us about the story about yourself and rowing.

I started rowing when I was at school, growing up in Tasmania, Australia. I continued rowing when I came to Hong Kong to work for the Hong Kong Government in 1974. I was a founder member of the Hong Kong, China Rowing Association in 1978. The Association was founded by 7 members of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC), which was the only club in Hong Kong with rowing facilities at that time. The vision of the founding members was to make rowing available to the local community and to allow Hong Kong to compete in international rowing regattas. I am currently Chairman of the Association.


I have been involved for many years with the World Rowing Federation (FISA), serving on the Umpiring Commission from 1993 to 2004, being on the Governing Council since 2004 and on the Executive Committee since 2011. This has allowed me to be closely involved with international rowing and policy. It has also meant that I have attended all Olympic Games since 1992 as an international rowing official and most World Rowing Championships during this period. I retired from FISA at the end of 2018 upon reaching the FISA retirement age.



What were the challenges bringing the World Rowing Coastal Championships 2019 to Hong Kong? What are the solutions?

Hong Kong has hosted a range of high level international rowing events since it was formed. These include the 1stAsian Rowing Championships in 1985, several Asian Rowing Indoor Championships and Asian Rowing Junior Championships, the Asian Rowing Cup in 2013 and of course the rowing regatta of the 2009 East Asian Games. Hong Kong has a number of international rowing officials with good experience, officiating at World and Asian level events each year and involved as Committee members in the World and Asian Rowing Federations. So we felt comfortable that we could step up to organise the higher level World Rowing Coastal Championships in 2019. But we needed to identify the right venue and we needed funding.


For the venue, we finally decided that the best way to promote a unique experience for all competitors and to show off an amazing side of Hong Kong was to hold the racing in Victoria Harbour. The iconic urban backdrop coupled with the City Centre location and the working harbour carrying on around the races would surely make this an event for all to remember. And it fitted well with the Government's stated policy to promote the harbour as a venue for international and local water sports.


Of course the harbour presents a number of special challenges, particularly as we wanted the races to be close to the shoreline of Central and Wan Chai so that spectators could really experience the excitement of rowing. The race course is 4km for preliminary races and 6km for medal final races. Because the course runs from Causeway Bay to Central Pier 10 and return, crews will twice cross the Star Ferry route from Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui. Through discussions with The "Star" Ferry Company we were able to come to arrangements whereby the races can be held with little or no disruption to the ferry timetable. This was put to the test during the 2018 Asian Rowing Coastal Championships, held as a "test event" in November last year on the same venue and with a high level of cooperation on all sides, proved to be very successful. We believe the bigger World Championships this year can be managed just as successfully here. The fact that the Star Ferry is an internationally recognised icon of Hong Kong Harbour makes this cooperation all the more meaningful, both for spectators and for international participants, and will present some wonderful photo opportunities.


The other challenge if we wanted to hold the event in the harbour was to find a suitable event base. There are very few places which provide suitable access to the water and support facilities around the harbour for such a high level world event. Fortunately, the RHKYC has been a home of rowing for over 100 years and the Club agreed to become the "Venue & Delivery Partner" for the World Championships. The Club not only provides a race village and boating base for competitors, but will also contribute a massive amount of water sports experience and logistical support to the event, including daily laying of the course buoys and motor boat support. All crews will access the water from the Club.


And finally funding. The government's Major Sports Events Committee (MSEC) Fund ("M" Mark) provides support for major events such as world championships held in Hong Kong.The fund's parameters have been revised this year and now provide enhanced financial support for approved events. Whilst we are also seeking commercial sponsorship the availability of "M" Mark funding has allowed us to bid and proceed with our planning with a high level of confidence to bring this major event to Hong Kong.



What can we expect to see in terms of competitions in the Championships when it takes place this November?

The World Rowing Coastal Championships uses coastal rowing boats. Unlike Olympic rowing, these boats are designed for use in open water and rough water conditions. So races will be held with no wave protection in the open harbor, providing clear views of the boats and rowers from all angles.


The Championships includes 7 events. There are 3 events each for Men and Women – Solos (1 rower), Double Sculls (2 rowers) and Coxed Quadruple Sculls (4 rowers plus a coxswain who will steer the boat). There is also a Mixed event - Double Sculls, where each crew will have 1 man and 1 woman rower.


The racing course will start at Causeway Bay, off the western end of the typhoon shelter, heading towards Central and turning around a buoy at Central Pier 10, before returning along the Central waterfront, around the HK Convention & Exhibition Centre, and then back to the finish line off Kellett Island. The longer 6km course will be the same but crews will do a second loop around the buoys between the Convention Centre and Pier 10.


In Central crews will come to within 20 – 30 metres of the waterfront and spectators will be well placed to see all of the action as crews navigate around buoys and vie for the lead.


There will be a race village on the shoreline. Can you tell us more about the village and the programme?

We want the championships to be seen by as many people as possible and to let more people in Hong Kong know what is rowing and to feel they have been a part of the event. We will establish several activation areas in Central and along the shoreline to Wan Chai. These will include exhibitions of Hong Kong’s rowing history and how this relates to the maritime history of Hong Kong. We will also have opportunities for the public to actually try their hand at rowing. This will include competitions and trials on rowing machines, but we also aim to put people into boats and have a short experience on the water together with experienced rowers to have the feel of rowing – but also to experience the thrill of being on the harbor together with this international event. Other entertainment and games will also be provided to make this a true family experience.


How do you and the organising committee encourage the public community to involve in the Championships as well as the sport itself?

Hong Kong has hundreds of kilometres of coastline, much of it of great beauty and stunning views. Coastal rowing opens up the whole of this coastline to the sport of rowing. It allows rowing to take place from any location where water access is available.


Our first objective is to organise a memorable World Rowing Coastal Championships. But we are also aware that this gives us a unique opportunity to raise the profile of rowing in Hong Kong. The Organising Committee and the Association are committed to use the Championships as a springboard to significantly expand rowing to the community. We are holding public trial days as part of the build-up to the championships and in terms of community sports development we see the championships as the beginning of a major expansion of our sport in the community.


Sustainability is a big topic especially for water sports. How do you encourage minimizing waste in the Championships?

In 2011 the World Rowing federation (FISA) entered into a Strategic Alliance with WWF International (World Wide Fund for Nature). WWF is the world’s largest and most respected independent nature conservation organisation, with more than 5 million supporters and a network active in more than 100 countries across all continents. WWF is working to protect freshwater ecosystems and improve water access, efficiency, and allocation for people and the environment. The WWF partnership with FISA is a perfect fit in promoting clean water, and one which the Association and the Organising Committee strongly support. For the 2019 World Rowing Coastal Championships we will introduce a number of initiatives to minimise our environmental footprint and publicise rowing’s “Clean Water” message. This will be headlined to the participating rowers by the policy of RHKYC to allow no single use plastic bottles, but further initiatives will be developed to also include the public in this environmental message. And for the championships themselves the Organising Committee is committed to minimise waste.


Hong Kong has hosted a number of mega rowing events in the past including the 2009 East Asian Games Regatta and 2013 Asian Rowing Cup II. Can you share with us your experience being part of these events as different roles?

The 2009 East Asian Games Rowing regatta was one of the best events I have attended in Asia and I would be happy to say, from the organization side, that it was world class. Many people contributed to this and it well demonstrated the Hong Kong Rowing community’s depth of experience and their abilities and commitment to producing an event of high quality. The 2013 Asian Rowing Cup II was another example of this, combined with our annual Hong Kong Rowing Championships, it brought rowers from many Asian countries and regions to compete in Hong Kong.


What do you see in Hong Kong rowing in terms of innovations and event achievements in the next 5 years?

This is a multi-pronged question!


Development is very important. The Association has had a very successful Youth Development Programme (YDP) for many years. Involving school visits and other initiatives the YDP has provided us with a very strong foundation for our Hong Kong Rowing Team, with almost all Team members having come up through this programme. When the YDP was first introduced it was a highly innovative initiative, but after many years it now needs to be revamped and updated to make it more relevant once again to today’s youth. We are in the process of doing this and this update will be an important part of our work in the coming year.


Coastal rowing brings us new horizons for the further expansion of rowing to the community and there is no doubt that this will bring new venues and new organisations into our sport to enjoy the special values which rowing brings to participants. But “flat water” rowing will also continue to be developed strongly in Sha Tin and other suitable areas. University and club rowing is a central part of our activities and both will benefit from further strengthening and support from the Association.


As a member of the Hong Kong Water Sports Council, the Association is also a central partner in initiatives to establish a number of new water sports centres, each involving multiple sports. The first of these is likely to be the East Kai Tak Water Sports Centre, a temporary centre expected to open early next year at the site of the old Kai Tak Runway Fire Station, close to the Cruise Terminal. This centre will initially cater to the community of East Kowloon and will allow us to bring rowing to many thousands of people in a convenient and safe environment in the protected water of Kai Tak.


The Association will also continue to partner with the RHKYC in organizing the Club’s annual Around the Island Race (ATIR). Using the same coastal rowing boats, this 45 km open water race is fast gaining an international reputation among top rowers. This year it will be held one week after the World Championships and discussions are ongoing to encourage many rowers to stay on and race in this event. We are confident that over the next several years the ATIR will develop into an iconic open water race and place Hong Kong firmly on the world coastal rowing circuit.


Rowing is an elite sport at the Hong Kong Sports Institute and we have strong international ambitions. Our rowers are very competitive at Asian level and we have had several medals at World level. We want to improve this to develop a Team and a programme which is consistently competitive at World level. This is very challenging in a sport like rowing, where the height and weight profile of Hong Kong athletes is somewhat less than many other countries. But we believe there are many athletes in Hong Kong who do have the potential and we will continue to identify, recruit and work with them for this purpose. Our target is to qualify at least one crew for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and we are already starting to prepare for the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.


The Association continues to be ambitious in developing rowing and in particular encouraging more community involvement. We have a large number of experienced and committed persons who voluntarily give their time to the Association and its work.


http://wrcc2019.com


What’s the story behind Midnight Runners, how did it start?

Midnight Runners was founded in London in 2015 by two friends who were unmotivated to train in the British winter and decided that by making that social commitment to run together would mean more KM's under their belts! A quick post on meetup.com and the two of them were joined by 13 other runners. Just like that the beginnings of Midnight Runners were formed!


What’s the demographics of your typical runners?

Our demographic is typical of your young urban millennial - 24-34, international and motivated to meet new and exciting people in the awesome cities they call home. We have people from over 120 countries as regular members. In terms of running ability we are complete mix: we have semi-pro athletes right down to people training for their first 10km. That is what makes our group so unique - an ability to bring a wide range of people and abilities together in a shared passion for running and fitness. It is also worth noting that 60% of our runners are female. 


What makes Midnight Runners different from other existing urban runs?

Midnight Runners is an incredibly open running community. We don't do pace groups and everyone is welcome. We also run to music played through portable speakers which allow us to ditch the headphones, making music social but also encouraging people to interact. We also throw some exercise stops in. Anyone that has been to our flagship BootCamp run with Music will know that we love burpees as much as we love running. All in all it creates a high energy, positive environment where you can be yourself. Beyond our weekly meet ups we are also blessed with an incredibly inspiring group of members. Our runners have taken on wild challenges, raised thousands for charity and we even organised a marathon in a war zone - Somalia's first in 26 years to prove that wherever you are in the world you should be able to run.

How does Midnight Runners sustain financially: do you rely solely on sponsors? Can you tell us your sponsors and partners?

We generate all of our income through sponsorship. Our main partner is Reebok who joined us in 2017 and who we have a great relationship with, allowing us to be independent whilst supporting us on our journey to bring running to more people around the world. 


You've brought Midnight Runners to many metropolitan cities including London, Berlin, Boston, Barcelona, New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Sydney and now Hong Kong. What do you find is a commonality amongst these places that in turn enables the concept to thrive?

We are present in an incredibly diverse group of cities but what strikes me the most is how for the most part we have way more in common than things that divide us. What we have noticed as we grow is that people are really looking for opportunities to connect in real time with people away from a screen. Of course social media has been a great tool at bringing people together but it’s almost gone too far. We are now actively seeking social contact with likeminded people. We start every event at Midnight Runners by getting people to introduce themselves to two people they have never met before, and in doing so we immediately breakdown the barriers between our runners. It has had some impressive results: marriages and babies being the most obvious!

Hong Kong is the first Midnight Runners location in Asia. Do you find it any different than other locations? Have there been any challenges?

Apart from the heat.... no! In all seriousness I have found Hong Kong to be an incredibly open and forward leaning city with a really dynamic culture of trying things out. People here are receptive to change and that is all we really ask - come down too one of our events with an open mind and I am 100% sure you will leave with a smile on your face! 


Apart from the regular Midnight runs, you have also hosted Midnight2Midnight (M2M) to raise fund for charities. Can you tell us more about M2M?

M2M is our way of giving back. We always want to be a positive force in the cities we call home and this global, 24-hour charity event allows us to do just that. We will run from Sydney to San Francisco for 24 hours, raising money for 1% for the Planet which is a global charity that provides funds for environmental charities. 


What’s next Midnight Runners?

Despite our global nature we are still a grassroots, volunteer led organisation and for that I am really proud. We have a team of 130 Crew Captains who, week in, week out, create amazing running events to that get people together and make them fitter. That is why Midnight Runners is still authentic whether you show up in London or Boston. I would like Midnight Runners to continue to grow in this vein so that we can help more people fall in love with running, motivate people to make positive changed to their lives and continue to build dynamic communities that inspire, challenge and are places for people to belong.


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