Starting Gate for Sprinters?

I'm not sure whether or not this was an April Fool's Day joke. I found it in the Mar 31, 1934 issue of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, which contained quite a few April Fool spoof articles, such as the "Loch Ness Monster Captured" article that I posted about recently.

But this feature about a new starting gate for sprinters... I just don't know.

I've never heard of such a thing before. But on the other hand, it sounds kinda plausible. In fact, some googling revealed that the Ancient Greeks used a starting gate for sprinters, which they called a husplex.

However, I can't find any references to this 1934 invention other than this story in the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. So I'm posting it here in the hope that others might weigh in with an opinion.

Here's a transcription of the German text:
Startmaschine jetzt auch für Menschen.

Bein den Kurzstrecken entscheiden Bruchteile von Sekunden. Um eine Kontrolle über gleichmäßigen Start zu haben, hat man jetzt in Stamford Bridge in England eine Bänderstartmaschine konstruiert. Im Augenblick des Startschusses schnellen die Bänder hoch... die Bahn ist frei. Geht ein Läufer zu früh vom Start, dann fängt er sich in den Bändern.

And my rough translation (with some help from Google translate):
Starting machine now also for people.

Short sprinting races can be decided by fractions of seconds. In order to ensure an even start, there has now been created a tape-start machine in Stamford Bridge, England. At the moment of the starting shot, the tape rises high ... the path is clear. If a runner starts too early, then he catches himself in the tape.

April Fools Day Sports

Posted on Sun Dec 01, 2013


Well, it sounds just about plausible enough to have been an April Fool. Which makes it also just about plausible enough to be true. But surely it should be possible to ask the current curators/concierges/whatever they're called? The stadium is still in very busy use by Chelsea FC, even if they don't have an athletics track any more.
Posted by Richard Bos  on  Tue Dec 03, 2013  at  06:17 AM
That's a good idea to ask the Stamford Bridge people. I should have thought of that!

One problem I can see with such a device is the possibility of injuries. For instance, if a sprinter caught their head in the tape as it was in the process of lifting up. Probably why (if the thing was real) it never became widely used.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Tue Dec 03, 2013  at  08:51 AM
Yeah. Funnily enough, we don't seem to have a problem with that when it comes to racing dogs or horses. Or dirt bikers, for that matter, but in that case it's justified. 😜
Posted by Richard Bos  on  Thu Dec 05, 2013  at  06:33 AM
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