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Innsbruck 1976

In order to maintain the leading position of Swiss sports timekeeping, OMEGA and Longines joined forces under the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Together they were able to meet the increasing demands of sports organisers, thanks to Joseph “Sepp” Blatter and OMEGA’s Peter Tosin, who were the driving forces behind the merger.

ANECDOTE

Sleds bought from local sports shop

In the luge, or “Rodeln” as it is known in Austria, times were measured to the nearest 1/1000th of a second for the first time, which turned out to be significant for Chinese Taipei’s Schieh Wie-Cheng and Huang Liu- Chong. Both had arrived in Austria without any equipment and had bought one two-man and two one-man sleds with no technical refinements from an Innsbruck sports shop, while their opponents were already experimenting with inflatable hoods and oval helmets. But even with such equipment, the Poles and West Germans could not beat the East German supremacy. Huang did not even dream of such things. In his four singles runs, he recorded a combined time of 5:22.646, half a minute longer than any other athlete in Olympic history. He had slipped off his sled twice, but stopped it from sliding away. In the doubles event, he managed to stay on board with his partner Schieh and the team from Chinese Taipei finished 21st out of 25 pairings – and only 1/1000th of a second behind 20th place. The sleds they had bought had proved to be suitable for the Olympics and Schieh and Huang were no longer ridiculed as exotic foreigners.

The combined bob and luge track in Igls was not only treacherous for Huang, but also for one OMEGA timekeeper who wanted to repair a defective timing device on the lower section of the track. There was a transmitter on one side of the track and a receiver on the other. The transmitter was OK, so the man wanted to get to the other side in order to check out the receiver. Since he did not want to go the long way round and the track was not very wide at that point, he thought that, if he hung on to the edges of the track, he would be able to get across. Unfortunately, he lost his grip and his colleagues at the finish line were astonished when first a toolbox and then, shortly afterwards, the time keeper himself came hurtling down the track. Fortunately, the man was unhurt. It just took him a while to recover from the shock of it all.

TECHNOLOGY

First moving images on video matrix board

"OMEGA and Longines are granted the exclusive right to use the title of Official Timekeeper of the XII Olympic Winter Games Innsbruck 1976 identification marks and the manufacturer’s name will appear on each piece of equipment to be supplied.” These words appear on the contract with the Organising Committee, signed by Thomas Keller. Keller, a former rowing champion and businessman, was the first President of Swiss Timing as well as President of the International Rowing Federation (FISA) and the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). This contract comprised 20 A4 pages.

Nowadays, the rights and obligations are laid down in a 197-page document and the contractual partner is no longer the Organising Committee, but the IOC. OMEGA sent 20 timekeepers to Innsbruck and was responsible for Alpine skiing, bobsleigh and luge, ice hockey and figure skating.


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