For nearly four years, the giant OMEGA Olympic Countdown Clock in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square ticked down the seconds to the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. At exactly 8 pm on the 8th of August, 2008, 08/08/08, the Countdown Clock reached zero.
At the same moment, at the National (“Bird’s Nest”) Stadium on the Olympic Green, the dazzling Opening Ceremony began with 90,000 cheering spectators looking on. The audience included more than 100 heads of state, the largest number ever to attend an Olympic Games.
The stop of the countdown also signaled that it was time for the Swiss watchmaker Omega to start its vital work as Official Timekeeper of the Games, with 450 technicians and engineers and 1,000 trained volunteers taking care of more than 420 tons of equipment, including a great number of scoreboards and display units. Their task is to provide the flawless timing, scoring, display and distribution of the results of all 302 events in 28 sports at 37 different venues.
The Omega team has been working in Beijing since January 2005, provided with the support of the staff in Switzerland. The team of professionals has thoroughly prepared and tested all the elements of the timekeeping, results and the distribution.
The Omega state-of-the-art technology and back-up systems provide the exact timing for the thousands of organizers and athletes, not to mention the millions TV viewers. Among the innovative equipment used, there are high-speed cameras recording 2,000 images per second, as well as innovative timing, scoring and false start systems.
The Omega equipment displays the results to the Olympic Games competitors and the public at the venues, handles the data and provides venue results. Omega also delivers official results to be distributed by the print, broadcast and network media to audiences worldwide.
Applying more and more computer power, Omega provides the results and measures the athletes’ performance with great precision. For example, for timing the rowing competitions, the company uses the technology based on the Global Positioning System (GPS) , measuring the position of each boat five times per second, defining the boat’s acceleration and the number of strokes per second, and measuring the distance between the boats.
An improved version of the Scan-O-Vision photo finish camera, initially used in 1992 at the Winter Olympics in Albertvill, represents another innovative technology used at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
The latest generation camera, recording over 2,000 images per second, provides color pictures, the increasing number of pixels and greater precision, so that the judges are able to define exactly a race winners.
OMEGA first served as Official Olympic Timekeeper at the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Following the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, the Swiss watchmaker will continue its timekeeping activities at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the 2012 Games in London.