How Precise Timekeeping at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Ensures the Right Gold-Medal Winners

As the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games, Omega is tasked with ensuring that its timing equipment, scanners, cameras, touch pads and more determine the winners of the 41 Olympic sports being timed at Rio 2016 Olympics with unfailing precision. It i

As with most things in life, it all begins with experience. This year marks the brand’s 28th time as the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games. Omega’s first timing title was back in 1932 at the Los Angeles Olympics. At that time the Games used one timekeeper and 30 high-precision white-dialed certified chronometer chronographs that could capture results to the nearest 1/10th of a second.

Since then the company has pulled out all the stops, utilizing its watchmaking and timing experience, to become ever more precise and accurate. It has unveiled revolutionary new equipment (including the world’s first photo finish camera at the 1948 London Games that helped determine the winner of two athletes who clocked the same 10.3 seconds in the 100 meter final), as well as new systems and methods to time every new Game. Compared to those 30 chronographs of yesteryear, the Rio Olympics now use 480 timekeepers.

This futuristic equipment is the result of heavy investment into research and development of highly sophisticated, state of the art equipment, sensors, electronic starting pistols, detection devices, touchpads in pools and more.

This year, the brand unveiled the Omega Scan’O’Vision Myria camera that captures 10,000 images per second in the photo finish. The brand has also developed a four-cell Photocell Technology system that can track body stance and movements for use in determining track winners, and a new Archery Targeting System that calculates the arrow’s distance from the center point with an accuracy of 0.2mm – more than the human eye can detect.

The Rio Olympics also has 335 sport-specific scoreboards (including new golf scoreboards as this sport makes its return to the Olympics for the first time in more than 100 years) in addition to 79 public scoreboards as part of the 450 tons of equipment it sends.

While it doesn’t contribute to timing the event or ensuring precision, Omega’s Last-Lap bells contribute to the spirit of the Games. Made almost entirely by hand at a foundry in Switzerland, Omega’s bronze Last-Lap bells – 21 of them – will sound as the last laps begin in track, cycling and biking events. The concept dates back to the ancient Greek Olympics and is meant not only to capture the initial spirit of the Games but also to give the athletes an audible warning that this is their last chance to push for the Gold.