OMEGA’s history at the Olympic Winter Games
Our First Olympic Winter Games
1936 was the first year that OMEGA officially timed an Olympic Winter Games and one OMEGA watchmaker arrived in Garmisch-Partenkirchen equipped with 27 stopwatches to time every sport. The brand had already been chosen as the first ever Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games when the summer events were contested in Los Angeles in 1932.
Today, OMEGA is still the name behind the clock. PyeongChang will be the brand’s 28th time as Official Timekeeper, it’s 14th in winter since 1936. With the recent extension of the partnerhsip between the IOC and OMEGA, this legacy is set to continue until at least 2032, a full 100 years since the very first occasion.
1948 was the first time that OMEGA’s photoelectric cells were used at the Olympic Games. This revolutionary technology replaced the capabilities of the human eye and has remained ever since. In St. Moritz that year, the equipment was positioned on the finish line of races and emitted a highly-reactive beam of light. As soon as the first athlete crossed the line, the electronic timer would immediately stop and a truly accurate result could be measured to the nearest 1000th of a second.
Today, photoelectric cells are still in place. In speed skating, the beams of light are now just two or three centimetres above the ice. This ensures that the clock is stopped as soon as the winning competitor’s skate crosses the line. The system guarantees precision at the moment of victory and gives timekeepers the most accurate finishing time possible.
1956 was the first time that OMEGA introduced starting gates in alpine skiing at the Olympic Games. Making their début in Cortina d’Ampezzo, the gates signalled the beginning of each run. As soon as the athletes passed through, the OMEGA Quartz Recorder was triggered.
Today, OMEGA’s “Snowgate” technology provides the latest innovation. It was introduced at Vancouver 2010 and ensures that the starting pulse sounds when the “wand” is at precisely the same angle for every competitor. The timing system is then activated automatically when an athlete bursts through.
The Viewing Experience
1964 was the first year that OMEGA was able to superimpose the times of Olympic Games performances onto the bottom of television screens. This was all thanks to a new piece of technology known as the Omegascope. Never before had spectators outside the venues been so quickly and well-informed about the events taking place. From this moment in Innsbruck, the concept of “real-time” sports reporting had arrived.
Today, OMEGA’s on-screen information has progressed much further. The Omegascope is gone. But as you will see in PyeongChang, OMEGA can now display a huge range of measurements in a broad range of sports. Through motion sensor systems, OMEGA will provide continuous measurements of athletic performance from start to finish, giving spectators a much deeper understanding of what they are watching.
1968 was the first year that OMEGA introduced “Integrated Timing” at the Olympic Games. With events taking place in Grenoble, OMEGA was able to supply the press, media, television channels, judges and the general public with additional information about athletic performances as well as in-depth statistics. Furthermore, the updated Omegascope could also now superimpose complete competition details onto TV screens, including athlete names, live times, final times, intermediate times and speeds.
Today, OMEGA’s statistical information is greater than ever before. And the capabilities are still advancing! In PyeongChang, a huge array of measurements will be instantly available to media and spectators. From ski jump speeds to ice hockey positions, never has so much data been available at the Olympic Winter Games.
1980 was the year that OMEGA introduced its Game-O-Matic technology. The system could immediately calculate and display an athlete’s ranking as soon as he or she crossed the finish line in alpine skiing events. It featured its own data processing equipment and met all of the expectations of the Organizing Committee in Lake Placid that year.
Today, the technology has changed, but OMEGA is still providing immediate information for the benefit of everyone. As athletes become quicker and margins become smaller, the need for fast information and precision has never been greater. Luckily, OMEGA remains up to the challenge.
The Photofinish Camera
1992 was the year that OMEGA introduced its new Scan’O’Vision system in Albertville. Photofinish cameras had been used at past Olympic Games by OMEGA, but this updated technology could now digitally measure times to the nearest 1/1000th of a second. The improvement in precision was astounding and heralded a new chapter in the science of timekeeping.
Today, OMEGA’s Scan’O’Vision cameras are still in place at the Olympic Games. They have continued to evolve over the past two decades and the images are now used by judges to determine the official results. The most recent model, the Scan’O’Vision MYRIA, is able to capture 10,000 digital images per second.
Modern Day Timekeeping
2006 was the first year that OMEGA introduced special transponders worn by athletes. Primarily used in the new team pursuit event in speed skating in Turin, the transponders were worn on the ankles of competitors and were able to send and receive radio signals, allowing OMEGA to capture specific time measurements.
2010 saw the arrival of the new Electronic Start Pistol in Vancouver. Instead of using a traditional gun, OMEGA introduced a streamlined, futuristic device composed of a flash gun and a sound generation box. When the starter presses its trigger, three things happen simultaneously: a sound is “played”, a light flash is emitted and a start pulse is given to the timing device.
2014 in Sochi included a number of exciting technologies, including the advancement of athlete tracking. In ice hockey, OMEGA introduced the Whistle Detection System. This was worn by officials, and the microphone allowed them to speak to the scorekeeper on the timing bench. The system also stopped the clock as soon as it detected the sound of a referee’s whistle. This would happen at least half a second faster than any timekeeper could manually achieve.