Starting blocks

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In 1932 Omega became the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games and, over the years, the company has introduced numerous state-of-the-art time-keeping technologies. Today’s fully automated Olympic and Paralympic Games feature such precision engineering as high-speed cameras for capturing nail-biting photo finishes, touch-sensitive contact pads for timing swimming events, as well as plenty of innovative tech for starting races.

The ‘Electronic Start System’ involves a flashgun and sound-making device. With one pull of the trigger, a bang, a flash and a start pulse are all emitted at the same time. The start pulse is sent to the timing device, signalling the start of the race and commencing the precision data measurement. The competitors all ‘see’ the light flash from the gun at the same time, but to ensure that they all ‘hear’ the sound simultaneously too, the noise is reproduced from a mini speaker positioned behind each racer’s starting block.

Omega’s newest starting blocks measure the runner’s reaction time not by movement but by the pressure they exert against the foot pad. No one’s reaction time is faster than one tenth of a second, therefore if the sensors in a starting block detect that a runner has exerted any force on the pressure pads on the pedal, then they are deemed to have started too early and a false start will be confirmed.