London 2012 Olympic Games Friday, July 20th 2012
The first mobile photoelectric cells were developed in 1945 © Omega
There are brands whose name immediately conjures up one or other speciality or domain, but few have managed such striking associations as Omega. The brand has connections with the conquest of space, James Bond, and underwater exploration. A list that wouldn't be complete without sports timing and the huge role the company has played in the development of the technologies that go with it. The brand has forged close ties with the International Olympic Committee as the official timekeeper for the Games, a mission it will fulfil for the twenty-fifth time in London this year, and again in Sochi (2014), Rio de Janeiro (2016) and Pyeongchang (2018).
Omega made its debut as official timekeeper of the modern Games at Los Angeles in 1932. Since then, the company has contributed to giant strides in the timing of athletes' performances. For example, the first mobile and water-resistant photoelectric cells were developed in 1945. They were followed, in 1948, by hundredth-of-a-second precision and timers that were used in conjunction with photofinish cameras to distinguish between athletes crossing the line together. The Omega Time Recorder introduced electronic timekeeping at the Helsinki Games in 1952. Omegascope technology superimposed a clock on television screens at Innsbruck in 1964, followed by Integrated Timing at the 1968 Games in Mexico City and Grenoble. This marked the beginning of "modern" electronic automated timekeeping. Timekeeping, data analysis and a main server were linked together in a global concept for the first time at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. This was also the first time that acceleration and running speed were measured in the sprint events. In Sydney in 2000, the global audience could see a world-record line across their television screen during the swimming events. Eight years later in Beijing, very high speed cameras recorded two thousand images a second.
The microsecond is the new reference
True to form, this year Omega will inaugurate its Quantum Timer and Quantum Aquatics Timer. They simultaneously measure sixteen separate times to a millionth of a second; that's a hundred times more precise than any previous technology. New starting blocks detect reaction times by the measurement of force against the back block and not by movement. The Swimming Show system mounted on the starting blocks lights up as soon as the first three finishers hit their touch pads. Says Stephen Urquhart, President of Omega: "The aim isn't to push the limits to an absolute point but to provide fair and accurate timekeeping." What constitutes this absolute point has yet to be seen! (CR)