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Peter Hürzeler | We are 20 years ahead of the federations

Peter Hrzeler | We are 20 years ahead of the federations

Peter Hürzeler of Omega Timing, a veteran of 15 editions of the Games, spoke to Indulge about the process of timekeeping and recent innovations. Edited excerpts:

What are the major improvements you have made in terms of timing systems for this Olympics?

Our goal is always simple. To provide 100% service to the Games. And to make no mistakes and give the right results. Exactly what we do for any other event. We do nothing special for the Olympics. In fact,we more or less use the same technology we use for any other sporting event. This creates comfort for the athletes. And one of our jobs is also to keep the athletes happy.

What have you done new this year to keep the athletes happy?

What is interesting is that these blocks can now be connected to a computer to study how athletes start the race. We with a weight of around 240kg. At first, we thought the system was malfunctioning.

And how closely do you work with the federations?

Very closely. But we are always 20 years ahead of what the federations expect from the timekeeping systems. Way back in 1948, during the London Games, we had developed an automatic connection between the starting pistol and the photo finish camera, years before such a system was demanded by the federations. And it wasn’t used. Twenty years later in Mexico, only when TV broadcasters said they didn’t want to show a big group of people with stopwatches at the finish line, did the federation switch to electronic timing.

What do you think is the future? What will happen in the next 20 years?

Let me talk about track and field. Today, there is a delay between a race ending and the official time being declared. In the future, this delay can be reduced, perhaps with the use of radio transponders attached to each athlete. Currently, we are testing this system in long distance races. But we can only get accuracy within one-tenth of a second. In the future, these transponders will get better and we should be able to have results within a few hundredths of a second after a race.

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