When the Opening Ceremony of the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games kicks off in Innsbruck on January 13th 2012, it will mark the beginning of a new era in international sporting competition among the world’s young athletes. Talented 15- to-18-year olds from almost 70 nations will be demon- strating skills which might just take them to the highest-profile sporting stage on earth within a few short years.
Although the Winter Youth Olympic Games are being held for the first time, the young competitors will have more than their sport- ing talent in common with their Olympian counterparts: as with the Olympic Games, each of the 63 events in all 15 disciplines will be timed by OMEGA. Since 1932, OMEGA has been Official Timekeeper 24 times; the brand is particularly proud to be bringing its unparalleled sports timekeeping legacy to Innsbruck for the first edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
THE OMEGA COUNTDOWN CLOCK IN INNSBRUCK
DRAMATIC SYMBOL OF THE FIRST WINTER YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES
On July 14th 2011, OMEGA, the Official Timekeeper of the Winter Youth Olympic Games, unveiled the Countdown Clock that ticks away the days, hours, minutes and sec- onds to the beginning of the opening cer- emony on January 13th, 2012. The clock is located in the heart of Innsbruck at the intersection of Maria Theresien Strasse and Burggraben, one of the most frequented places in the city and located near its many tourist attractions.
On hand for the unveiling were OMEGA Timing General Manager Christophe Ber- thaud, Peter Mennel, Secretary General of the Austrian Olympic Committée, Ty- rol’s Debuty Governor Hannes Gschwen- tner and the Mayor of Innsbruck Christine Oppitz-Plörer.
The unveiling event took place exactly a half year before the start of the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
OMEGA’S THIRD VISIT TO INNSBRUCK
When the Olympic Winter Games were staged in Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976, OMEGA served as Official Timekeeper. The brand’s president, Stephen Urquhart, said, “Both editions of the Winter Games staged in Innsbruck were memorable for some new timekeeping equipment and outstanding performances. We were warmly received by our Austrian hosts and are looking forward to returning for the very first Winter Youth Olympic Games.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF TIMEKEEPING AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES
At the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, OMEGA, the Official Time- keeper, will bring its century-long history of international sports timing and an Olympic legacy which began in 1932. OMEGA’s timekeeping and data handling team will draw on the experience gained at 24 Olym- pic Games and the competence which has given the brand an unparalleled reputation as a precision sports timekeeper. Here is a short review of some of OMEGA’s time- keeping highlights at the Olympic Games.
This year was a defining moment in the his- tory of sports measurement: Omega be- came Official timekeeper at the Los An- geles Games in 1932, supplying 30 high precision chronographs, all of which had been certified as chronometers by the Ob- servatory at Neuchâtel, for use across all sports. It was the chronographs’ officially certified precision which convinced the Or- ganizing Committee to select Omega for the Games. Official results were taken at fifths and tenths of a second.
Omega used the cellular photoelectric eye for the first time at the 1948 Winter Olym- pic Games in St. Moritz. Mobile and inde- pendent of the electrical network, it was water-resistant and could be adjusted to resist wide variations in temperature; its infrared technology was insensitive to the so-called parasitic reflection of the sun and flashes. For the first time, the timing system was triggered automatically when the starting gate opened.
Invented in 1961, the Omegascope allowed the introduction of the concept of real time in televised sports reporting by superim- posing luminous numbers on the bottom of the screen; it revolutionized timekeeping and left no margin for error because it was openly on display for millions of TV view- ers. It was used at the 1964 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, the first fully electronic Olympic Games. Never before had spec- tators beyond a venue been so quickly and well informed about events taking place elsewhere.
The Omega Game-O-Matic, which cal- culated and displayed an athlete’s rank- ing the moment he or she crossed the finish line, was used for the first time at the Winter Games in Lake Placid.
At the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, speed skaters were treated to the Omega Scan-O-Vision system that digitally meas- ured times to the nearest thousandth of a second as the skaters crossed the finish line. The system effectively photographed time by fusing time and continuous picture in a single document. This heralded a new chapter in the science of timekeeping.
At the Winter Games in Turin in 2006, tran- sponders were strapped to the ankles of speed skaters so that timekeepers might capture a moment of sudden acceleration, the speed round a hairpin bend, the abrupt end to a challenge as a racer crashed to the ice.
The most talked-about bit of new sports timekeeping equipment In Vancouver was the new Electronic Start System. 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 Olympic and Paralym- pic Winter Games, this was replaced by a streamlined, futuristic device composed of a flash gun and a sound generation box. 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 sig- nalled. The sounds can be changed and downloaded by computer.
TIMEKEEPING TECHNOLOGIES IN INNSBRUCK
OMEGA’s timekeeping and data han- dling professionals will arrive in Innsbruck equipped with tons of equipment – a veri- table arsenal of the world’s latest and best sports timing and judging technology.
Here’s a preview of the equipment which will be used at the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
ELECTRONIC START SYSTEM
The most logical place to begin is with OMEGA’s new Electronic Start System. One of the most enduring images from any Olym- pic Games is the starting pistol, reminiscent of the revolvers so popular in movies set in the Old West. At the Winter Youth Olym- pic Games, a streamlined, futuristic device composed of a flash gun and a sound gen- eration box will be used.
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 will be audibly signalled. The sounds can be changed and downloaded by computer.
As was the case with traditional powder pistols, the sound will be reproduced by speakers near each competitor, guarantee- ing that they will hear the signal at the same time. At some venues, the audio signals will also be put on the public address system.
THE SNOWGATE STARTING GATE
Alpine skiers at the Winter Youth Olympic Games will start their runs through a starting gate called “Snowgate”. This 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 me- chanical; the other is electro-mechanical. The skiers have a ten-second starting win- dow and can begin up to five seconds be- fore or five seconds after the official start time. If they are within this time frame, the timing system will be activated automati- cally when they burst through the gate; oth- erwise, they are disqualified.
HIGH-DEFINITION JUDGES’ SCORING SYSTEM
In figure skating, OMEGA Timing’s high definition judges’ scoring system will be in place. It has been in use since the beginning of 2009 for ISU Championships and made its first Olympic Games appearance in Van- couver in 2010.
The system provides several additional ad- vantages: there will be a tremendous in- crease in quality thanks to the high-defini- tion images. It also weighs considerably less than its predecessor and offers improved handling.
Furthermore, OMEGA’s timekeepers can provide all the necessary support in the op- eration of the system and will no longer have to rely on third parties.
The nine alpine ski medal events will all take place in Patscherkofel. Alpine skiing for both men and women debuted as an Olym- pic sport in 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirch- en. In 1948, separate downhill and slalom races were added. The giant slalom be- came an Olympic winter sport in 1952, and the super-G in 1988.
The speed and drama of the alpine events make them among the most popular of all Olympic winter sports. Athletes can reach speeds in excess of 130 kilometres per hour as they travel down a vertical drop. The skiers also have to pass through a series of gates. A skier who misses a gate has to climb back up and go through the gate in order not to be disqualified.
There are five speed skating medal events, all of which will take place at the Ice Sta- dium.
Speed skating has been part of the Olympic Games since the first Winter Games were held in Chamonix in 1924. Women’s speed skating became a full medal event at the Squaw Valley 1960 Olympic Winter Games. With speeds of more than 60 kilometres per hour, speed skating is the fastest human- powered, non-mechanical-aided sport in the world.
During the race, a lap counter located near the finish line lets skaters know how many laps remain. The finish time is deter- mined when the blade of the skate crosses the photo-beam located on the surface of the ice at the finish line. In case of disputes, OMEGA Scan’O’Vision photofinish camera records the action at the finish line at 2,000 frames per second.
In speed skating the timekeepers and their technologies face the ultimate challenge: it is timed to the nearest thousandth of a second. To put this in perspective, about a thousand of these tiny increments of time pass in the second or so it takes to say “Olympic speed skating”.
Four-man bobsleigh was on the schedule at the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924. The current Olympic bobsleigh events are in some ways reminiscent of those pioneer- ing days of the sport but the modern bob- sleighs, with their polished fibreglass noses and polished steel runners are high-tech aerodynamic wonders. At the beginning of a bobsleigh race, the athletes push of as fast as they can for approximately fifty me- tres, then jump into the sleigh where they re- main (or certainly hope to!) throughout the descent. At the end of the run, the brake- man is responsible for stopping the sled.
The medal events in the biathlon will take place at the Seefeld Arena. There are five events in biathlon, which combines cross- country skiing and rifle shooting. It became a men’s Olympic sport in 1960. Women first competed in the biathlon at the Olympic Winter Games in 1992.
At the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olym- pic Games this discipline will consist of three events each for men and women: a 7.5km Sprint for men and a 6km Sprint for women; a 10km Pursuit race for men and a 7.5km Pursuit race for women; and a Mixed Relay with two men (each 7.5km) and two women (each 6km).
The skiing portion of the biathlon requires demanding cross-country free technique racing, while the rifle shooting requires ac- curacy and control.
When the athletes ski into the shooting range, they must put down their ski poles and take five shots at a metal target locat- ed at a distance of 50 metres. The events have either two or four shooting sessions. In half of these, the athletes shoot in a prone position; in the other half, they stand when they shoot. Each target has five plates, fixed
in a straight row, which the athlete must hit. The size of the target plates depends on whether the competitor is shooting from the standing (11.5 cm plates) or prone (4.5 cm plates) position. A top biathlete usually takes 20 to 25 seconds to aim and shoot five bullets. Missing a target plate can be costly: depending on the event, a missed shot means either one minute of added time or skiing a 150-metre penalty loop.
In the relay event, one member of a four- person team after another skis a leg, tag- ging the next team member at the con- clusion of his or her leg. During each leg, a competitor stops twice at the shooting range. In the relay, instead of the usual five shots, each biathlete is allowed three extra bullets. These have to be loaded manually (costing eight to ten seconds) as opposed to the first five shots which are loaded di- rectly from the magazine. Any athlete who still misses the target must ski a 150-metre penalty lap for each missed shot. Competi- tors can miss three shots before they are sent to the penalty loop. The extra shots in the penalty loop can be particularly costly in terms of time because each extra shot must be loaded manually.
The men’s and women’s halfpipe snowboard medal events will take place in Kühtai. In this thrilling discipline, one snowboarder at a time performs a routine of acrobatic jumps, twists and tricks on the inside of a half- cylinder-shaped snow tube or ramp while moving from one side of the halfpipe to the other. The judges score each performance based on the height and style of their tricks. It was one of the first disciplines in this still- new sport. The first snowboard halfpipe Olympic events took place in 1998.
OMEGA TIMELESS COLLECTION
THE SEAMASTER AQUA TERRA CHRONOGRAPH 44MM
OMEGA’s Timeless Collection honours our long association with the Olympic Games. Each watch in the Collection has an innova- tive connection to the Games.
The featured model has a remarkable coun- terweight on the central seconds hand, which is colourfully made up of the five Olympic rings.
This Seamaster Aqua Terra Chronograph is equipped with OMEGA’s revolutionary Co- Axial technology and is a COSC-certified chronometer, a testimony to its accuracy and precision.
This Chronograph is an enduring reminder of the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games where OMEGA will deliver flawless timekeeping to the world’s greatest young athletes.