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Vancouver 2010

As at every Olympic Games, OMEGA’s timekeeping and data handling professionals arrived at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games with tons of equipment – a veritable arsenal of the world’s latest and best sports timing and judging technology. The scale of the timekeeping effort in Vancouver and Whistler was unprecedented at a Winter Games

TECHNOLOGY

Electronic Start System: a radical new starting pistol design

One of the most enduring images from any Olympic Games is the starting pistol, reminiscent of the revolvers so popular in movies set in the Old West. At the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, it was replaced by a streamlined, futuristic device composed of a flash gun and a sound generation box. The red flash gun attracted enormous media coverage in Vancouver.

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. By pressing the trigger a second time within two seconds, the false start is audibly signalled. The sounds can be changed and downloaded by computer.

As was the case with traditional powder pistols, the sound is reproduced by speakers near each competitor, guaranteeing that they hear the signal at the same time. At some venues, the audio signals were also put on the public address system.

TECHNOLOGY

The Snowgate starting gate

Alpine skiers at this Olympic Games will start their runs through a new starting gate called “Snowgate” for the first time. New technology ensures that the starting pulse is generated when the “wand” (or “bar”) is at precisely the same angle for every competitor. The control box for the device includes both a main and a backup system. The systems use different technologies – one is purely mechanical; the other is electro-mechanical. The skiers have a ten-second starting window and can begin up to five seconds before or five seconds after the official start time. If they are within this time frame, the timing system will be activated automatically when they burst through the gate; otherwise, they are disqualified.

ANECDOTE

Hockey: Canada vs. USA. Overtime forced with 25 seconds to go.

Best thing that can happen to a timekeeper. The ice hockey final between the United States and Canada was a nerve-wracking affair for fans of both teams. After more than 59 minutes of aggressive play, the home country led by a score of 2-1. With 25 seconds remaining in regulation play, American Zach Parise scored, forcing an overtime. While watching the seconds tick away had been agonizing for the fans and the players, the important role of timekeeping was impressively underscored.

Play was continued fifteen minutes later and 7:40 into the sudden-death extra period, Sidney Crosby scored for Canada, ending the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games on a decisively positive note for the host country.


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