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Games timing

Jack Loo | July 1, 2008
Swiss watchmaker Omega will soon be very busy with the critical role of keeping time, scores and results at the Beijing Olympics. Jack Loo reports there is no room for mistakes. 

On the field itself, transponders using radio frequency identification (RFID) will be used in a number of different sports to help time the races and to determine the relative positions of the athletes or teams during the events. Omega will use them in cycling events, the marathon, and open water swimming, among other disciplines.

Omega global positioning systems (GPS) will be used in the sailing, rowing and canoeing competitions. The GPS co-ordinates will be processed and used to position competitors on dedicated venue maps and delivered through the appropriate channels to interested audiences.

Television feeds

During broadcast, Omega's dedicated systems feed information to television broadcasters for display onscreen and to the Commentator Information Systems (CIS), which provide data for commentators during competitions.

In addition to recording timing and results at the venues, Omega data handlers are responsible for processing the information provided by the timekeepers (the results and the complementary information), scoring and aggregating it and forwarding it to the various distribution channels.

Using a variety of output and display systems, data handling experts deliver Internet pages, screen frames and frames for scoreboards, TV graphics, printouts, media alerts and data feeds to the INFO and CIS and to the real-time display system.

The challenges Omega faces are found not just within the technology and hardware, but also in language. With Mandarin used in many of the organisational meetings, Omega employs local staff to ensure seamless communication. "We have around 1,000 local volunteers who play an essential role in the timekeeping, scoring and data handling process.

"Finding, interviewing and training them was a challenge but we have been very happy with the results-it also allows increased participation by the Chinese at the games," says Berthaud.

"We spend a lot of time describing and discussing the remarkable technology but special mention has to be made of the team that operates the equipment. They are specially-trained professionals whose expertise and knowledge are key to the success of the timekeeping and data handling operation."


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