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Accuracy is crucial to the smooth running of the Olympic Games and Omega is constantly updating its technology to ensure the most accurate results possible.
By Roger Alexander
Olympic timing technology has come a long way since the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens; stopwatches have given way to high-tech timekeeping devices including high-speed digital cameras, electronic touch pads, infrared beams, radio transmitters, GPS and GPRS, just to name a few.
Omega was the very first watchmaking company to be appointed as timekeeper at the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. In those days, 30 hand-operated chronographs were needed for timekeeping. This historic event laid the foundation for a long-term cooperation: Omega has been the official timekeeper at 21 Olympic Games during the last century and two in the present millennium.
Thanks to today’s advanced timing technology, Olympic athletes can win or lose by a margin of only 1000th of a second – 40 times faster than the blink of an eye. Such accuracy requires first-rate technology. Although most times are only published to the 100th of a second,Olympic timing standards require that timekeeping be accurate to the millisecond!
Remember the fantastic showdown between the then two fastest women on Earth at the 1996 Atlanta Games? Emotions and adrenalin ran high in the Olympic arena as the two sprinters claimed victory in the women’s 100-metre race – and only the photofinish cameras could judge the winner.
Both American Gail Devers and Jamaican Merlene Ottey came in at 10.94 seconds, and when Devers was awarded the gold medal,Ottey understandably protested to no avail, as images from the finishing line indicated that Devers crossed a five-thousandth of a second ahead!
The episode shows how accuracy is crucial to the smooth running of the Olympic Games. And Swiss watchmaker Omega, which holds the coveted role of Official Timekeeper, is constantly updating its technology to ensure the most accurate results possible.
“Our commitment to the Olympic Games is much more than just a name on a display board or a screen,” says Nicolas Hayek, the Swatch Group’s CEO.
“All of the Swatch Group’s companies share the core philosophy of the Olympic Movement, which celebrates humanity more than anything else. In addition, the Swatch Group’s companies, and Omega in particular, have developed almost all the time measurement technology that is used during the Olympic Games.”
Back in 1996, cameras were snapping an amazing 1000 images per second. At this Summer Olympics in Beijing, Omega will premiere the latest generation of digital cameras – the Scan‘O’Vision Star – that record more than 2000 photos per second to determine exactly when the athlete crossed the finishing line!