How Omega became the official timekeeper at the Olympics

How Omega became the official timekeeper at the Olympics

A record of its own

Text: Gwen Ong

A history of how and why Omega was appointed to capture some of the most remarkable sporting moments

Omega's foray into sports measurement began in 1932 when the company was entrusted to keep the time across all events at the Olympic Games. In its first outing as the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games, the brand supplied one timekeeper and 30 high precision chronographs. Omega was able to capture results to the nearest 10th of a second and this was invaluable in confirming 17 new World Records.

By the 1948 London Olympic Games, Omega introduced the 'Magic Eye', a photofinish camera that enabled timekeepers to pinpoint the exact positions of the athletes when they crossed the finish line. The device was developed to be more accurate than any previous technology in distinguishing gold and silver medal performances.

At the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, the brand found its next big innovation in the pool—the automatic touchpads. Human-eye decisions were problematic in the final of the men's 100m freestyle when the judges couldn't agree on who the winner was. The gold eventually went to Australia's John Devitt while USA's Lance Larson had to settle for second. Omega then went on to develop the automatic touchpads at the ends of the pools to allow swimmers themselves to stop time with their own hands.

From there, Omega's legacy as the official timekeeper continued with the 1968 games in Mexico City. Omega sent 45 timekeepers along with 8 tonnes of equipment, which included the Omega Photosprint. This device was able to catch the moment every contestant crossed the finishing line in a single photograph and positively revealed the official times.

For the 1984 Olympic Games, Omega made strides by introducing the first false start detection device. It was a piece of extremely sensitive equipment that functioned by measuring the pressure that runners exerted against the starting block.

Fast forward to 2012, the London games saw Omega introducing three new pieces of advanced equipment including new starting blocks used by sprinters and short-distance runners; the Swimming Show that instantly ranked the top three finishers in the pool; and the high-precision Quantum Timer used in athletics and water sports that has an enhanced resolution of one millionth of a second. 

In addition, there are even more devices now being used such as the laser and sound "starting pistol" with its bright red colour, and the Omega Scan'O'Vision Myria that captures 10,000 frames per second in a photofinish.

Now as we focus on the Rio Games 2016, this year marks the 27th time Omega will be playing the prestigious role of Official Timekeeper. This year, Omega is using 480 tones of equipment, miles and miles of cabling and 450 timekeepers. It is a massive commitment to serve the dedicated athletes who are competing on one of the biggest stages of their lives. Precision is key!


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