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Athens 2004

After 108 years, the modern Olympic Games returned to their original birthplace – with 44 times as many participants, 14 times as many participating NOCs and seven times as many events as in 1896. The Olympic champions were presented with olive wreaths, as in the ancient Olympic Games, the marathon runners followed the same route from Marathon to the Panathinaikos stadium as their predecessors in 1896, and the shot-putters competed in the ancient groves of Olympia.



The development of timekeeping from the simple stopwatch to the Scan-O-Vision high tech scanner is just as fascinating as that of any individual sport. When the first basic stopwatch was developed in 1890, showing times to the nearest 1/5th of a second, some of the sports now included in the Olympic programme did not even exist, whereas others had been around for thousands of years. Boxing is one example. The first recorded Olympic champion from ancient times dates back to 688 BC. Until 488 BC, the Olympic finals at the ancient Olympic Games in Greece often ended with the death of one of the finalists. The last world championship decided with bare knuckles was won after 75 rounds by John L. Sullivan against Jake Kilrain in Richburg (Mississippi) in July 1889. They fought until there was a winner. Using boxing gloves, Sullivan remained world champion in all categories until 1892.

Boxing has been an Olympic sport since 1904, but the history of Olympic boxing is riddled with scandals. Problems with the judges were first reported in 1932. Rather than sitting on a chair outside the ring, the referee operated inside the ring for the first time in Los Angeles. Three rounds of three minutes each were contested. In 1948, 66 of the 85 referees were suspended. In London, some boxers who felt discriminated against demonstrated by sitting on the judges' table and preventing the continuation of the competition. In 1984, when the USA won 11 medals in 12 weight classes, there were more controversial decisions. 3-2 verdicts were checked by the jury and some were revised. Protective headgear was compulsory for the first time in Los Angeles. In Seoul in 1988, two boxing rings were placed next to each other, which created confusion when the bell rang. When Jong-Il Byun was beaten by Alexander Hristov (BUL) in the bantamweight, the South Koreans vented their fury against the ungrateful referees. Byun demonstrated by sitting in the ring for 67 minutes, beating the "Olympic record" set by his compatriot Dong-Kih Choh in 1964 by 16 minutes. Meanwhile, Si-Hun Park was awarded victory against Roy Jones in the light-middleweight final after winning the judges' vote 3-2. The USA protested against the error, producing a computer breakdown as evidence, but were unsuccessful. However, Jones was named the best technical boxer of the tournament and also received the Olympic Order in 1997. Eighteen judges were suspended after the Games.

Seoul provided the International Boxing Association (AIBA) with the opportunity to introduce the computerised scoring system developed by OMEGA, in which every landed punch counted. At least three of the five judges had to press the red or blue button within a second of each other in order for a point to be scored. Eight ounce gloves (227 g) were used in the categories up to and including welterweight, while ten ounce gloves (284 g) were worn by boxers in the light middleweight category and above.

Since 1996, only ten ounce gloves have been used. Since 2000, fights have lasted four rounds of two minutes each, with three one-minute breaks. A knock-out is indicated by an electronic acoustic signal and viewers can follow the score live on their TV screens. Since 2006, this service has also been available to spectators at the venue itself. OMEGA installs a scoreboard above the ring which the spectators can see but the judges cannot. The judges are also monitored by five video cameras.

This system was successfully introduced at the 2004 Olympic Games in Sydney. Thanks to modern technology, scandals are now a thing of the past and the AIBA can look forward to a more peaceful future for Olympic boxing.


Unique long-term partnership with the IOC

21 January 2001 was a historic day for Swiss sports timekeeping: it was the first time the IOC had signed a long-term partnership agreement until 2010, including the Paralympic Games. Under the agreement, the Swatch Group was given responsibility not only for timekeeping and scoreboards, but also for data processing, known as data handling. In other words, the Official Timekeeper was now in charge of all information inside the stadiums, TV captions and the transmission of results to the Commentator Info System (CIS).

After the corruption scandal linked to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the IOC had decided to take responsibility itself for timekeeping and data handling. Switzerland won the contract because it offered a complete service and Swiss Timing had already been fulfilling this role at World Championships and other major events in various sports (Tissot in cycling, OMEGA in swimming and Longines in gymnastics) for a long time.

The Official Timekeeper therefore took charge of data handling for the first time at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. For each of the 35 sports, a comprehensive list of specifications between 150 and 300 pages in length was produced, laying down all the tasks that needed to be carried out. In gymnastics, for example, the Olympic Result Information System (ORIS) was required to produce 54 different results and statistics sheets, 80 different documents on subjects ranging from training plans, the competition format and rules to the people presenting the medals, the latest results lists two minutes after the end of each round and a daily report 30 minutes after the end of the event. In Athens, there was a record number of 301 disciplines on the programme, with 6,296 men and 4,079 women (a record 40.7%) representing 201 National Olympic Committees (NOCs). That was also a record. For the first time, China, the hosts of the 2008 Olympic Games, finished second in the medals table behind the USA, with 31 gold, 17 silver and 14 bronze medals.

310 technicians from Switzerland and around 900 volunteers were on hand to carry out these duties in the 38 competition venues. 350 tonnes of equipment was transported to Greece, including no less than 182 electronic scoreboards of various sizes.

A particular attraction for the public was the Swatch Ionic Centre, based in the historic Plaka district of Athens, with a four-lane athletics track painted on the street. It was visited by more than 1 million Olympic tourists.



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