Designer paradise;Reviews;Subject of the week;Sport and PE;Books

26th February 1999 at 00:00
WINNING: The Design of Sports. McLellan Galleries, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. Until April 5.

Can innovative design influence your chances of success in a chosen sport? Undoubtedly the manufacturers of sports gear think it does, or at least, want you to think that it does, which is why they spend millions of pounds trying to entice people, especially children, to buy the very latest designs.

Given that so much money is spent on trainers, it was only to be expected that a considerable amount of space at the exhibition, "Winning: The Design of Sports", should be devoted to the shoe. Indeed, trainers get a whole room to themselves but even people who have been living underground for the past 15 years (and are therefore blissfully unaware of Nike, Adidas and Reebok) should find this, and the rest of the exhibition, fascinating.

Here is the 1972 Cortez sports shoe. Originally designed by athletics coach and Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman, for one of his proteges, it is still in production. Also the "shoe boot", designed by Nike in 1992 for the film Batman Returns, and the gold running shoes Michael Johnson wore in the Atlanta Olympics.

And who would have though that golf balls could be interesting? In the "It's Only a Game" section, you can see how the design of golf balls has progressed from the hand-painted St Andrews "Featherie" of the 1840s - three pieces of leather sewn together and stuffed with goose feathers - to those made from the solidified juice of exotic trees. And if you want to know why they're also dimpled not smooth, the exhibition will explain.

Elsewhere we learn that white cricket balls were introduced because traditional red ones vanished on television screens; ice hockey goalies need all that padding because pucks can shoot towards them at speeds of up to 120mph; and Sir Chris Bonington likes a tent that's light enough to carry up mountains but big enough to accommodate four people for a game of bridge.

In the section "Survival of the Fittest", we get to see not only the kind of tent Bonington took with him on his most recent expedition but the jacket, sleeping bag, cooking and climbing gear; the Swiss Army Knife with pliers, screwdriver and saw; high-tech personal navigator (forget the compass); a satellite phonefaxe-mailer combo; a digital picturevideo sender with rechargeable solar panels ... and his preferred brand of whisky (which has never been improved on, apparently).

For anyone who thought all you needed for climbing was a rucksack and an old pair of boots, this section should be retitled "Survival of the best-fitted out".

Dozens of sports are touched on with equipment ranging from 19th-century tennis racquets to ultra-modern snowblades. There's a sleeping bag with legs, designed to let campers go for a pee without getting cold, and floor tiles made from re-cycled trainers.

Given the sporty theme, some hands-on activity might have been expected, but there is none.

This is, in fact, very much a hands-off show, with most of the exhibits carrying "alarmed display" notices, particularly frustrating in the case of some highly coloured, deep-sea fishing lures which look like gorgeous jewellery (they incorporate real fish heads set in clear perspex).

However, there are interesting film and video displays and worksheets for primary school groups who can be shown around the exhibition by gallery staff, provided they've booked their visit in advance.

For further details, telephone the education office, 0141 287 7191 Sloping off: the new surface attracts snowboarders and skiers

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