Los Angeles
1932 1984
Garmisch-Partenkirchen
1936
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1936
St. Moritz
1948
London
1948 2012
Helsinki
1952
Cortina d'Ampezzo
1956
Melbourne
1956
Rome
1960
Innsbruck
1964 1976
Grenoble
1968
Mexico City
1968
Montreal
1976
Lake Placid
1980
Moscow
1980
Sarajevo
1984
Calgary
1988
Seoul
1988
Albertville
1992
Atlanta
1996
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2000
Athens
2004
Turin
2006
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2008
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2010
Sochi
2014
Rio
2016

Los Angeles 1932

"It is impossible to contemplate the wonderfully successful Games of the Xth Olympiad and the unprecedented athletic performances which featured the Games without recognising the part played by Omega watches in this great international event". With these words, William M. Henry, Sports Technical Director of the Los Angeles Games in 1932, thanked OMEGA for its first official involvement at the Olympic Games.

ANECDOTE

Ralph Metcalfe beaten by the rule book

Even though times had never been measured as accurately as they were in Los Angeles, many of the judges‘ decisions were shrouded in controversy. Particularly in athletics, where the same time was recorded for the winner and runner-up in five different races. Following the 80 m hurdles final whichshe narrowly lost to Mildred “Babe“ Didrikson (USA), Evelyne Hall (USA) even went as far as to claim: “She only won because she is the crowd‘s favourite.“ Didrikson had already been stripped of the high jump gold medal after her dive was suddenly deemed to be illegal. However, the most memorable incident was the 100 m duel between Thomas Edward “Eddie“Tolan (USA, 1908 – 1967) and Ralph Metcalfe (USA, 1910 – 1978), concerning which Robert Parienté wrote in his book “La fabuleuse histoire de l‘athlétisme“: “Everyone saw Metcalfe win, and yet he was only placed second… Metcalfe was beaten by the rule book.“ The timekeepers‘ hand-held stopwatches had recorded three times of 10.3 seconds for Metcalfe and two times of 10.3 and one of 10.4 seconds for Tolan. Even so, Tolan was declared the winner. 

Gustavus T. Kirby, Chairman of the Jury and inventor of the “Chronocinema“, a camera which filmed the end of races and was used to record times to the nearest 1/100th of a second, stated categorically after examining the film: “The seven judges and myself have viewed the film of the finish several times. We can state that Tolan won by exactly five hundredths of a second. Both competitors reached the finishing tape at exactly the same moment, but the rules specify that the race is finished only when the athlete‘s torso has completely crossed the finishing line marked on the ground. Tolan crossed before Metcalfe.“ This rule, which was often interpreted in different ways, was changed in 1933. Since then, the winner has been the first person to cross the line with any part of his or her torso. Kirby‘s camera was used on an experimental basis and was only consulted in exceptional cases because it took too long to develop the films.

The electronically recorded times for Tolan and Metcalfe were identical (10.38). The results list shows them both with times of 10.3 seconds. Even though this time, which was achieved against a headwind of 1.4 m/sec, equalled the world record held by Tolan at the time, it was never officially recognised as such by the IAAF. While Tolan won two gold medals in Los Angeles, Metcalfe went down in the history books as an unlucky loser. In the 200 m final, he was wrongly told to start the race from the relay mark and ran 3.5 m further than he needed to, finishing third as a result. Neither Metcalfe nor Tolan were members of the USA 4 x 100 m relay team!

Metcalfe did not win a gold medal until 1936, when he was part of the US relay team that included the legendary Jesse Owens. Tolan and Metcalfe were the world‘s top sprinters before Owens began to rewrite the sporting history books. Metcalfe set a total of 15 unofficial world records over 100 yards, 100 m, 200 m, 220 yards and the 4 x 100 m relay; Tolan set 14. However, the IAAF only recognised five of Metcalfe‘s and four of Tolan‘s records. Tolan later became a teacher, while Metcalfe spent the last seven years of his life as a Democrat member of the House of Representatives in Washington. Both were members of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first academic fraternity for blacks in the USA.

TECHNOLOGY

30 stopwatches and 17 world records

OMEGA‘s first official appearance at the Olympic Games was remarkable in two ways: it was the first occasion that timekeeping had been assigned to a private company and the first time that winners and medallists were timed to the nearest 1/10th of a second.

OMEGA supplied thirty calibre 1130 stopwatches, which were used in all the timed competitions. The main innovation offered by these stopwatches, which were accurate to the nearest 1/10th of a second, was the split-seconds facility, which meant that intermediate times could also be measured. The timekeepers at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam had used their own stopwatches. Times in all sports had only been measured to the nearest 1/5th of a second and official times were only provided for the winners in the athletics events.

Although the Great Depression and the economic crisis meant that the 1932 Games did not break previous participation records, many sporting records were broken, including 14 world records in athletics and three in swimming.


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