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 demonstrating 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 sporting 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.
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 seconds to the beginning of the opening ceremony 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 Berthaud, Peter Mennel, Secretary General
of the Austrian Olympic Committée, Tyrol’s Debuty Governor Hannes Gschwentner and the Mayor of Innsbruck Christine
The unveiling event took place exactly a
half year before the start of the Innsbruck
2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
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.”
At the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games
in Innsbruck, OMEGA, the Official Timekeeper, 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 Olympic 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 timekeeping highlights at the Olympic Games.
This year was a defining moment in the history of sports measurement: Omega became Official timekeeper at the Los Angeles Games in 1932, supplying 30 high
precision chronographs, all of which had
been certified as chronometers by the Observatory at Neuchâtel, for use across all
sports. It was the chronographs’ officially
certified precision which convinced the Organizing 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 Olympic Games in St. Moritz. Mobile and independent 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 superimposing 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 viewers. It was used at the 1964 Olympic Winter
Games in Innsbruck, the first fully electronic
Olympic Games. Never before had spectators beyond a venue been so quickly and
well informed about events taking place
The Omega Game-O-Matic, which calculated and displayed an athlete’s ranking 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 measured 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, transponders 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 Paralympic 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 signalled. The sounds can be changed and
downloaded by computer.
For more comprehensive coverage of this fascinating subject, readers are encouraged
to visit the portion of our website dedicated to our timekeeping history:
OMEGA’s timekeeping and data handling professionals will arrive in Innsbruck
equipped with tons of equipment – a veritable 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
The most logical place to begin is with
OMEGA’s 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 the Winter Youth Olympic Games, a streamlined, futuristic device
composed of a flash gun and a sound generation 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, guaranteeing 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.
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 mechanical; the other is electro-mechanical.
The skiers have a ten-second starting window and can begin up to five seconds before or five seconds after the official start
time. If they are within this time frame, the
timing system will be activated automatically when they burst through the gate; otherwise, they are disqualified.
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 Vancouver in 2010.
The system provides several additional advantages: there will be a tremendous increase in quality thanks to the high-definition images. It also weighs considerably less
than its predecessor and offers improved
Furthermore, OMEGA’s timekeepers can
provide all the necessary support in the operation 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 Olympic sport in 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In 1948, separate downhill and slalom
races were added. The giant slalom became an Olympic winter sport in 1952, and
the super-G in 1988.
There are five speed skating medal events,
all of which will take place at the Ice Stadium.
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 pioneering days of the sport but the modern bobsleighs, 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 metres, then jump into the sleigh where they remain (or certainly hope to!) throughout the
descent. At the end of the run, the brakeman is responsible for stopping the sled.
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.
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 humanpowered, 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 determined 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”.
The medal events in the biathlon will take
place at the Seefeld Arena. There are five
events in biathlon, which combines crosscountry 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 Olympic 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 accuracy 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 located 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 fourperson team after another skis a leg, tagging the next team member at the conclusion 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 directly from the magazine. Any athlete who
still misses the target must ski a 150-metre
penalty lap for each missed shot. Competitors 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 halfcylinder-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 stillnew sport. The first snowboard halfpipe
Olympic events took place in 1998.
OMEGA’s Timeless Collection honours our
long association with the Olympic Games.
Each watch in the Collection has an innovative connection to the Games.
The featured model has a remarkable counterweight 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 CoAxial 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.