How Olympic Timing Works


Olympic Timing History

Although the history of the Olympic Games stretches back as far as 776 B.C.E., the history of Olympic timing technology began just over 100 years ago. These are the major breakthroughs:

  • 1896: Athens, Greece. First "modern" Olympic Games, stopwatches used to determine winners' times.
  • 1912: Stockholm, Sweden. Electrical timing and photo finish first used.
  • 1920s: Antwerp, Belgium; Paris, France; Amsterdam, Holland. Chronographs first used to measure to the hundredth of a second.
  • 1932: Los Angeles, Calif. Omega, currently a member of Swatch Group, named the first official timekeeper of the Olympic Games. "Kirby camera" introduced, which simultaneously photographed the finish line and featured a chronometer to time-stamp each shot.
  • 1948: Saint Moritz, Switzerland. Cellular photoelectric eye first used and slit camera adopted for photo finishes.
  • 1952: Helsinki, Finland. Omega Time Recorder first to use a quartz clock and print out results, earning the company a prestigious Cross of Merit from the Olympic Committee. Clocks added to slit cameras for automatic time-stamping, accurate to the hundredth of a second.
  • 1964: Tokyo, Japan. Competitors' times first shown live on television. Seiko, designated for the first time as official timekeeper of the Olympic Games, links the starting gun with a quartz clock and photo-finish camera.
  • 1968: Mexico City, Mexico. Contact plates first used to time aquatic events.
  • 1972: Munich, Germany. Reaction times first measured and taken into consideration during timing. Official times recorded to the hundredth of a second rather than the tenth of a second.
  • 1976: Montreal, Canada. Electronic scoreboards used for display of real-time scores.
  • 1988: Seoul, South Korea. Officials process the timing data for the first time in addition to recording it.
  • 1992: Albertville, France. Electronic photo-finish technology fully integrated with timing systems.
  • 1996: Atlanta, Ga. Radio transponders first used in cycling and marathon events.
  • 2002: Salt Lake City, Utah. Infrared beams replace photoelectric cells in sledding events; radio transponders first used in long-distance skiing events.
  • 2004: Athens, Greece. Photo-finish takes 1,000 pictures per second and radar guns are added to beach volleyball.
  • 2008: Beijing, China. GPS is used or the first time in rowing competitions, allowing viewers to see progress as the race progressed
  • 2010: Vancouver, Canada. Electronic starter pistol debuts
  • 2012: London, United Kingdom. The Quantum Timer and Quantum Aquatics Timer are introduced; both measure accuracy to one millionth of a second

For more information on Olympic timing technology and related topics, check out the links below.

Related Articles

Sources

  • Broer, Robert-Jan. "Omega and the Olympics." AskMen. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.askmen.com/fashion/trends/omega-and-the-olympics-2.html
  • Green, Edward. "A brief history of timekeeping." BBC. Aug. 26, 2004. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3594206.stm
  • Heaton, Jason. "Timekeeping." Gear Patrol. July 24, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://gearpatrol.com/2012/07/24/timekeeping-omega-olympics/
  • Hirst, Michael. "London 2012." BBC. May 3, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17852953
  • IW Magazine. "Omega introduces timekeeping technology for Olympic Swimming. IW Magazine. July 27, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://iwmagazine.com/2012/07/27/omega-introduces-timekeeping-technology-for-olympic-swimming/
  • Kahle, Laurie. "Omega advances Olympic timekeeping technology for London 2012." Forbes. May 31, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.forbes.com/sites/lauriekahle/2012/05/31/omega-advances-olympic-timekeeping-technology-for-london-2012-2/
  • Lecher, Colin. "The fully electronic, futuristic starting gun that eliminates advantages in races." Popular Science. Aug. 7, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-07/electronic-futuristic-starting-gun-eliminates-advantages-races
  • Lee, Jimson. "Omega Olympic starting blocks (and why Usain Bolt bought one)." SpeedEndurance.com. July 24, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://speedendurance.com/2012/07/24/new-omega-olympic-starting-blocks-why-usain-bolt-bought-one/
  • Lee, Singyin. "London 2012 Olympics." Hongkiat.com. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/london-olympics-technology/
  • Leo, Alan. "New Olympic clocks go for the gold." MIT Technology Review. Feb. 20, 2002. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.technologyreview.com/news/401354/new-olympic-clocks-go-for-the-gold/
  • Lohr, Steve. "For impatient web users, an eye blink is just too long to wait." The New York Times. Feb. 29, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/technology/impatient-web-users-flee-slow-loading-sites.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&
  • Milor, Linda. "New timekeeping technology at Summer Olympics." Georgia Tech. July 27, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://amplifier.gatech.edu/articles/2012/07/new-timekeeping-technology-summer-olympic-games
  • National Science Foundation. "Science of the Summer Olympics." National Science Foundation and NBC Learn. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://science360.gov/obj/video/1289a2c6-50cd-4102-8c57-84886571c426/science-summer-olympics-measuring-champion
  • Olympic.org. "Omega introduces Sochi 2014 timekeeping equipment." The Olympic Games. March 28, 2013. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.olympic.org/news/omega-introduces-sochi-2014-timekeeping-equipment/195334
  • Olympic.org. "Omega debuts new technologies at London 2012." The Olympic Games. July 23, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.olympic.org/news/omega-debuts-new-technologies-at-london-2012/168764
  • Omega. "Athletics Technology." (Jan. 16, 2014) http://www.omegawatches.com/planet-omega/sport/athletics-technology
  • Omega. "Sport." Omega. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.omegawatches.com/planet-omega/sport/
  • Omega Watches. "New Olympic Games timekeeping technology in Vancouver and Whistler." (as appeared on Facebook). Feb. 9, 2010. (Jan. 23, 2014) https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=291996786183
  • Oxford Cambridge and RSA examinations. "Technology and the Olympics." (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.ocr.org.uk/Images/77532-ibytes-support-update-issue-05.pdf
  • Park, Alice. "Technology's Touch." Time. July 27, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://olympics.time.com/2012/07/27/technologys-touch-how-a-photo-finish-in-the-olympic-pool-gets-resolved/
  • Sims, Josh. "Olympic Timing." Plaza Watch. July 26, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://plazawatch.com/news/olympic-timing
  • Smith, Nick. "Olympics Watch." E & T magazine. April 6, 2009. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://eandt.theiet.org/magazine/2009/06/olympic-time.cfm
  • Steele, Chandra. "2012 Olympics Tech." PC Magazine. July 23, 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow/story/300499/2012-olympics-tech-at-the-games/2
  • Steinbach, Paul. "Technology allows for racing events all but devoid of human error." Athletic Business. Aug. 2009. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.athleticbusiness.com/Health-Fitness/technology-allows-for-racing-events-all-but-devoid-of-human-error.html
  • The Swatch Group. "Timekeeping at the Olympic Games." The Swatch Group. 2014. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.swatchgroup.com/en/services/archive/london_2012/timekeeping_at_the_olympic_games_4
  • Swiss Timing. "Bobsleigh and Skeleton." The Swatch Group. 2012. (Jan. 9, 2014) http://www.swisstiming.com/Bobsleigh-and-Skeleton.501.0.html

More to Explore