Are the watches used at the olympics good timekeepers or are the athletes getting faster?

Posted on August 15, 2008. Filed under: Olympics | Tags: , , |

Omega is the official timekeeper of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. It only makes sense that Omega watches keep track of the times in the Olympics, as Omega invented the first stopwatch ever in 1898. In 1948, Omega also created the world’s first photo-finish camera. Even the Swim-O-Matic touch pads at the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games were made by Omega. As Omega keeps progressing the way the Olympics can enhance timekeeping, they continue to be the official timekeeper for the Summer Games.

Over many different time periods, the technology used to time events at the world Olympic Games have gone through the a variety of stages which include: manual timing, electro-mechanical timing, electronic-quartz timing and the broadcasting of live results. Timekeeper sponsors throughout the modern Olympic Games include Longines, Heuer, Omega, Seiko, and Swatch.

During the 1896 Athens Olympic games, a manual chronograph by Longines became the official timekeeper. It wasn’t until 1932 when Omega became a sponsor and the official supplier of time for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and continued until 1964. Seiko, one of the early companies to explore quartz movement technology, became the official timekeeper for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. As well as ending the monopoly of Swiss timekeepers at the Olympic Games, Seiko’s designation bore witness to the importance of quartz timing technology.

The emergence of microelectronics brought about a revolutionary breakthrough for the timing of sports. In particular, the advent of computers and software equipped sports timers with more precise and perfected functions. In addition to being shown on the scoreboard, it was a very big deal when athletes’ times could also be shown by video and used for radio and television.

By the year 1972, Omega and Longines co-founded the Swiss Timing Company, which focus in the manufacture of timers for the Olympic and other sporting events. Interestingly in the same year as the Swiss Timing company was founded, the Munich Olympics were held. These were the first Games to introduce the geodimeter and electronic timers with 1/1000th-second accuracy.

At the 2008 Olympic Games, Omega will be timekeeping again, and, just as important, data handling. They will be presiding over 302 events in 28 different sports at 37 far apart venues, principally at the already famed “Bird’s Nest” main stadium in Beijing itself. Omega will be deploying 450 on-site technicians to handle over 450 tons of equipment, to service 70 scoreboards for the public’s view, and 322 sport-specific subsidiary scoreboards, involving more than 175 km of cables and optical fiber. Omega has proved that it has the capabilities to do a great job timekeeping at the Olympics, and it sounds like they will be up to the task again.

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