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19 February 2008

Testing OMEGA’s Timekeepers at the Water Cube in Beijing

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OMEGA’s Official Timekeepers have set up their most advanced timekeeping systems at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing. The center, also known as the “Water Cube”, will host the "Good Luck Beijing" Swimming China Open, a major test event set for January 31st to February 5th of this year. The swimming test event, like those for diving and synchronized swimming to be held at the Water Cube later this year, allows all participants to ensure they are well prepared for the Olympic Games in August, where swimming events alone will account for a total of 32 gold medals.

OMEGA’s timekeepers at the event will be keeping a close eye on the performance of key components of the timekeeping system at the Water Cube: the starting blocks, which have built-in sensors linked to advanced false-start detection technology, and the famous OMEGA touch pads that allow each swimmer to record his or her official race time.

Each of the starting blocks is outfitted with a speaker linked to the starter’s pistol, so that each contestant hears the start signal at precisely the same time. The false-start detection system measures the swimmer’s reaction time, which is defined as the interval between the sound of the starter’s pistol and the swimmer’s response. If the time measured is less than the time in which humans can possibly react to the start signal, the swimmer has “jumped the gun”, and the timekeeper uses an acoustic signal to indicate a false start.

The famous OMEGA touch pads originated in the need for an accurate system capable of delivering incontestable results—a need made most evident by an incident at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games, when the head judge overruled the timekeepers; his decision resulted in the controversial award of the gold medal to a swimmer the timekeepers believed to have come in second. The debacle generated an intense development effort and search for technology that eventually resulted in the introduction of the now ubiquitous “touch pad” technology first tested by OMEGA at the Pan-American Games in Winnipeg in 1967. Prior to the development of OMEGA touch pads, finishing times in swimming competitions were measured with handheld stopwatches by 24 timekeepers, three of whom were assigned to each of the eight lanes. OMEGA touch pads made their Olympic Games debut at the Mexico 1968 Olympic Games. Reacting to very slight pressure from the swimmer's hand but not to the movement of the water, the pads allow swimmers to “stop the clock” with their own hands. The time thus registered automatically becomes the official race time for each swimmer.

OMEGA touch pads and starting blocks are part of an integrated timing system capable of recording times to the nearest 1/1000th of a second. However, because it is not possible to build swimming pools in which each lane is guaranteed to be precisely the same length, Olympic and World Records are still recorded to the nearest 1/100th of a second.

OMEGA’s Official Timekeepers have set up their most advanced timekeeping systems at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing. The center, also known as the “Water Cube”, will host the "Good Luck Beijing" Swimming China Open, a major test event set for January 31st to February 5th of this year. The swimming test event, like those for diving and synchronized swimming to be held at the Water Cube later this year, allows all participants to ensure they are well prepared for the Olympic Games in August, where swimming events alone will account for a total of 32 gold medals.

As Official Timekeeper of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, OMEGA is responsible for official results at all competitions. The firm’s timekeeping team provides comprehensive timekeeping services that include the display of results to competitors and the public at the venues, for data handling and the provision of On Venue Results (OVR) at each of the venues and for the delivery of official results for distribution by the print, broadcast and network media to audiences around the world. OMEGA is the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games in Beijing, the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver 2010 and the London 2012 Olympic Games. The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will be OMEGA’s 23rd as Official Timekeeper. OMEGA first served as Official Timekeeper at the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games.

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