Tag Archives: omega olympics
For many people, the name Omega evokes wristwatches. That’s not surprising; the company, based in Switzerland, was founded in 1848 and has been making quality timepieces ever since. They’re part of the Swatch group today and they continue to make high quality mechanical and electronic wristwatches.
They’re also responsible for keeping time at the Olympics, where timekeeping is of vital importance for the many events that are not judged, measured, or weighed. For swimming, skiing, track and field events and more, it’s essential that the time be kept, and that it be kept accurately.
That’s not as easy as it sounds, though it’s a lot better than it used to be. When Omega first arrived at the Los Angeles Olympic games in 1932, their team arrived with stopwatches, and they’d continue using stopwatches for the next three decades. It wasn’t until 1968 that all Olympic events were electronically timed.
Manual timing was understandably problematic; you had to rely on both the timepiece, which was fairly accurate, but you also had to rely on the person charged with operating the timepiece to ensure that the timing was done to match the starting and ending of the event. There were also limitations to mechanical timepieces, which were reasonably accurate but only to the nearest 1/10th of a second. Obviously, all sorts of problems arose from this, but as mechanical timing was all that was available in the mid-20th century, they had to make do.
As time went on, the ability to time to the hundredths and thousandths of a second became possible and these timings are critical in certain events, such as the luge, where thousandths of a second can sometimes separate the winners from the losers.
A major breakthrough came about in 1968 with the introduction of the end-of-lane touchpad in swimming, which allowed for accurate timing of the completion of swimming events in the Summer Games. Previously, it was difficult to gauge when a swimmer touched the wall to complete the race, but now it was possible to know for certain when the race was over, and to get an accurate time for each swimmer.
Omega’s current cutting-edge timing equipment now allows them to accurately time any event to within one millionth of a second. We have yet to see an event where the finishers were so close to one another that such accurate timing was necessary, but that day may eventually come, and it will be nice to see the officials prepared for such an event.
In the meantime, the Olympics provide Omega with great visibility and a reminder that while they may only be providing the time for the Olympics every two years, they can provide it for anyone every day via one of their classic and accurate timepieces.