Peter Hürzeler, OMEGA Timing Board Member, introduced the timekeeping systems used in Olympic Games swimming events at the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park ahead of the beginning of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In London, the swimmers will leave from a modified starting block. OMEGA has determined a way to allow even better stars: a patented, adjustable slanted footrest allows swimmers to use a crouch start with the rear-positioned leg at a 90° angle at the knee, generating an optimal starting profile – the power input a swimmer generates against the block from the starting signal to the time he/she leaves the block.
The starting blocks also feature an innovative light system called the Swimming Show, which is making its debut at the Olympic Games in London. There are lights mounted on the starting blocks positioned next to the touch pads at the end of the pool where the swimmers stop their races. A single large dot of light on a swimmer's starting block indicates first place; two medium-sized dots of light indicate second; and three smaller dots of light confirm a third place finish.
Quantum Aquatic Timer
With an enhanced resolution of 1 µs (one millionth of a second) the Quantum Aquatic Timer is the beginning for a new generation of OMEGA Timing products. The resolution is 100 times greater than with previous devices. The Quantum also delivers precision of 0.1 parts per million (ppm). This means that there is a maximum variation of only one second out of ten million seconds or a thousandth of a second out of every thousand seconds. The previous devices had precision of 0.5 ppm so in this respect, the new ones are five times as accurate. The precision is achieved through the use of a Micro Crystal component embedded in the timer.
Innovative features include a complete backup built into the main unit, and 16 independent clocks, 128 inputs and 32 outputs. The main and backup systems have separate power supplies so a power failure in one has no effect on the other.
The 16 independent clocks mean that 16 separate running times can be physically implemented in the hardware and the information for each can be simultaneously communicated to scoreboards or shown on television screens.
Touch pads have been a familiar site in Olympic Games swimming pools since 1968. The swimmers stop their own clocks by applying a force of 1.5 kg to 2.5 kg to the touch pad. They are designed so that the necessary pressure is the same at any location on the pad. The sensitivity of the touch pads is such that while a swimmer’s touch will stop the clock, the movement of the water will not affect them.
High-speed video cameras
High-speed video cameras are placed above the pool at the end of each lane and provide a reliable back-up system to the electronic main systems. They are rarely consulted but in certain situations, they have played a decisive role in settling disputes in close races. At the Olympic Games level, their most memorable use was at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. In the men’s 100-metre butterfly, according to the electronic timing system, Michael Phelps defeated Milorad Cavic by a hundredth of a second, the smallest measurable margin in a swimming competition. Cavic’s coach disputed the result but upon viewing the high-speed video images (100 per second), he withdrew the dispute – the high-speed video cameras confirmed that the electronic system had performed perfectly and Phelps was awarded his seventh gold medal at Beijing before making history in his next competition.
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