OMEGA – Every Split Second Counts (The History of Olympic Timekeeping)

OMEGA – Every Split Second Counts (The History of Olympic Timekeeping)


The Olympic Games
have an intensity unmatched by any other sporting competition
in history. An Olympic athlete must perform,
knowing that there is no second chance. This is something that you train
for. The Olympics comes around only once
every four years. If you don’t take that opportunity,
it might not come again. I always set out to do something
that nobody else had ever done before. They have spent
four years preparing, sacrificing,
training for this one moment. My coach said that
if you stand any chance to win this race, you’re gonna have to get the best
start you ever got in your life. If you fail,
you are left with nothing, and the wait for
another four years. I wanted the gold.
Desperately wanted the gold. If you fall down,
can you get up? Yeah, you got to pick yourself up
and you take that into any arena in life. Winning is not just about
being the best. It is about being the best
at the right time. In less than 11 seconds,
you got to get it done. Years of dedication and training
can come down to split second finishes. Blink and you miss it failure,
or incredulous snatched victory. That race defined my career. Holy shit! It was like,
“that just happened”. The unforgiving present tense of the Olympic Games
weighs heavy on the athletes, and the skill of being an Olympian
is the seizing of time. Camera doesn’t lie. The magic happens
at the finish line. The stopped clock. The difference between success
and failure, tells the end of a story. At the tape it’s a photo finish. But it is only the clock that
tells the complete story. [EVERY SPLIT SECOND COUNTS] [THE HISTORY OF OLYMPIC TIMEKEEPING] Tucked away in this small
Swiss mountain village is a warehouse. [OMEGA TIMING, CORGÉMONT] Inside are hundreds
and thousands of containers. It is from here that
some 500 tonnes of equipment, miles and miles of cables
and optical fibre, and dozens of TV generators and scoreboards will travel
to Rio, Brazil for the Games
of the 31st Olympiad. A journey, in marked contrast
to the one taken back in 1932. Again, the great Olympic stadium,
jammed to the gunnels. The Los Angeles Games marked
the first time that responsibility for Olympic timekeeping
had been assigned to a single company:
OMEGA. So you’re kind of
like the Indiana Jones of OMEGA Olympic timekeeping. [PETROS PROTOPAPAS
OMEGA INTERNATIONAL BRAND HERITAGE MANAGER] Well, you could say that.
Actually, very nice, thank you. We do the research and then
we are out in the world, chasing for artefacts,
chasing for history. So the Indiana Jones part
would be outside. I don’t have a whip, though.
Even though when I’m outside. [LAUGHTER] At the previous Games in Amsterdam, timekeepers had used
their own stopwatches. Now, for the first time, 30 calibrated chronographs
would provide unprecedented precision. This is,
let me just put on some gloves. Otherwise we are not worthy. I mean, look at this. This very piece is one of the watches
that was actually used in Los Angeles. That in 1932, allows you allows you to take
not only just one time, to take split seconds timing. No computers. This is analogue.
This is real, human work. The ticking sound it makes,
it’s pure music. I mean, if you put this
to your ears, it’s music. It is an amazing story that the company
who produced this entrusted the well-being of the Games’
most important contribution to fairness, to one person. We tested the watches. We put them in special suitcases. They travelled across the Atlantic,
mainly with, er, the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, and then by train
to Los Angeles. I mean,
you have to really realise, I don’t even want
to know what this, our ex-colleague, felt in his mind
when he was travelling, knowing
what an important cargo he was actually
carrying with him. Even though times
had never been measured as accurately as they were
by OMEGA in LA, many of the judges’ decisions
were controversial. Here come the athletes. That’s our first.
And that’s Tolan coming to the front now. He’s ahead.
Metcalfe a foot behind. Memorably, in the 100 metres duel
between Thomas Tolan and Eddie Metcalfe. You had at least six timekeepers, but the rulebook
spoke about a torso, a complete, full torso of the person who has to sort
of literally cut the finishing line. The OMEGA timekeepers’ stopwatches recorded three times
of 10.3 seconds for Metcalfe, and two times of 10.3
and one of 10.4 for Tolan. By the timing results,
Metcalfe would have won. But by the rulebook,
because visually speaking, his torso wasn’t completely past the
– past the finishing line, well,
Tolan was given the race. Everybody learned from this experience.
One year later, the rulebooks changed. The rule, which was often
interpreted in different ways, changed in 1933, so that the winner was now
the first person to cross the line with any part of their torso. Four years later, an OMEGA timekeeper made
a slightly shorter journey. This time with a suitcase
containing 185 stopwatches, from Basel to the capital
of the Reich: Berlin. These Games would be
remembered for one man: Jesse Owens. My dream was trying to emulate
to some degree [HARRISON DILLARD, 1948 & 1952 OLYMPIAN]
my idol, the great Jesse Owens. After the fanfares of the Olympic openings
comes the most amazing performance by America’s black streak,
Jesse Owens, in the 100 metres. Germany may have topped
the medals table in front of a record number
of spectators, but the crowd’s favourite
was the American, Jesse Owens. The most successful athlete
with four golds. They had the parade
in Cleveland for Jesse, and he came by on the back
of this big open automobile. His wife was sitting with him.
He looked down at us. We were standing right at kerbside.
Several kids, seven or eight of us, I think. Our old gang. And he looked down and winked.
Said, ‘Hey kids, how are you?’ Well, we thought
this was the greatest thing in the world; that our idol had
actually spoken to us. And er, I, I remember
running back home, bang through the door,
and said, ‘Momma, Momma, I just saw Jesse Owens.
I’m gonna be just like him’. I’m 13 years old. Well, my mother smiled and said,
‘Yes, son, I’m sure you will’. Harrison Dillard would have to put
his dreams of emulating his idol, Jesse, on hold as he was drafted into
the all black 92nd Infantry Division, known as the Buffalo Soldiers. The Second World War
meant a 12 year gap before the Games would return
in London, in 1948. Although it did actually impact
on the timekeeping technology in a positive way. OMEGA provided more than 50%
of all the military timepieces to the Allied forces. More than 50%
of all the watches, wristwatches
and pocket watches that, for example,
Royal Airforce pilots flew. The Battle of Britain, and all the air raids in all the campaigns
came from OMEGA. So imagine what technology you can
actually test during such an effort. Of course it leads to many things afterwards. And it leads also
to the ability to create more and more precise timekeeping. So it’s not an accident,
actually. It’s – it’s a way to, to use your wartime experience
in something extremely peaceful. [OMEGA MUSEUM
BIEL, SWITZERLAND] Peter Hürzeler, a veteran
in the world of timekeeping, has witnessed many of these changes, having overseen 16 Olympic Games. OK, [PETER HÜRZELER, OMEGA TIMING BOARD MEMBER]
this is the camera from ’48. It was a film who has to be developed after the race in a darkroom, and this was during about
20 minutes to get the result. Well, you can really say
London changed everything. I mean, just the mere fact
that you have an approved version of a virtual finishing line. You have the photo finish, so really this is
like a huge leap for technology. London changes everything. London 1948 was known as the Austerity Games, because of
the economic climate and rationing. No new venues were built, and athletes were housed
in existing accommodation instead of an Olympic Village. Arriving in a city
that still bore the scars of war. I remember that
there was still bomb rubble. There was still piles of destroyed buildings
and things in the streets. Er, I had been a soldier of course,
er, down in Italy during World War II, and er, was well aware of the destruction
wrought in Europe during the War, and so er, we still saw signs
of it there in London. Harrison actually failed
to qualify for his specialist event, the 110 metre hurdles, but did squeeze through in third place
for the 100 metres sprint. At the Games, he reached the final
where his fellow American and roommate, Barney Ewell,
was the favourite. My coach said,
‘If you stand any chance to win this race, you’re gonna have to get
the best start you ever got in your life, and hope you can get out front
and then they can’t catch you. I was in lane six,
up against the stands, and, er,
when the gun went off, I got this beautiful start. I just hit it, almost like
I felt the gun before I heard it. On their marks, set, and they’re off,
with Dillard on the outside, getting away in front. Left to right, it’s Dillard, Bailey,
McCorquodale, La Beach, Ewell and Patton. I’ve studied
some still shots of that race, and just looking at
the position of the arms, the legs and so forth, my knees are a little ahead of
where the other athletes were. It was shown that my start
was indeed perfect. And as we went down the track,
I was able to gain almost up to two metres,
I think, in front. And er,
it now became a question of can you hang on
to any portion of it? And you don’t care how much, just so it’s enough
to say that you won. As I drove towards the tape, I could see with peripheral vision
on the left side, I see these white jerseys. Dillard still holds his lead, with Ewell resolutely
closing ground. At the tape,
it’s a photo finish. [CHEERING] Er,
I did get through the tape. I thought I’d won but you never know until
the official announcement comes. [END OF PART 1] [PART 2] This was the first time
that OMEGA had used the photo electrical timing system
in the Olympic Games. We had a photo-finish camera
for the first time. It was done with an electronic
pistol on the start, and with the camera
on the finish line. That whole process
takes about two minutes before they make the announcement. And that seems like forever. All I knew is they took a picture
and the picture stopped with the winning athlete
hitting the tape, and everybody else
obviously behind him, and the judges
had something to look at. They had an opening for one tenth
[The slit] of a millimetre, a slit And this slit was exactly aligned with the finish line
on the beginning. Electricity as a current
is tremendously fast. Faster than anything
that a human thumb or a human eye, at least perception-wise,
can produce. It’s something that’s infallible because it’s really
a virtual optical finishing line. I mean, you cross it,
you break the light ray, and it’s done. This is – this is split of a split
of a split of a split second. I mean,
whatever you do, your thumb and your eyes
can never double that. Can never be as precise as that. The camera doesn’t lie. It got everybody right
where they were. And sure enough,
it turned out that I had won the race. Well, of course
the stadium erupted and er, Barney, who was also my good friend
as well as a roommate, quickly congratulated me
and er, nice going. This was a big development in the history of timekeeping. A lightning change,
Ewell to Wright. With another gold
in the 4 x 100m relay, as well as two more
in the next Games in Helsinki, Dillard did go on to emulate his hero,
Jesse Owens. The Olympics
in the Finnish capital in 1952 marked another quantum leap
for timekeeping, with the development
of the OMEGA time recorder. Like the OMEGA Magic Eye in London, the time recorder helped deal
with controversial decisions. And again,
as in London, it was the 100 metres. And they’re off. Mac is slow into his stride
and they’re fairly tearing it up. In the final,
both Lindy Remigino of the USA and Herbert McKenley of Jamaica were awarded exactly
the same electronically measured time 10.4 seconds. Something that
had never happened before, and was never repeated. The judge had to call
for a photo of the six in line before placing America first,
Jamaica second and Britain third. Despite the huge advancements
in timekeeping technology, controversy and close finishes
remained the lifeblood of the Games. Nowhere more so
than in the pool in Rome, 1960. It was a thrilling final, and a head to head
between the two favourites. The American Lance Larson,
and the Australian, John Devitt. A little hard to tell
who’s ahead there. Looks like Larson and Devitt. Larson with his far-reaching style caught the jerky John Devitt after around 90 metres. The Australian threw himself
with all his strength at the wall, while Larson finished more casually. Nobody can tell who the winner is.
There they go! Almost everyone in the stands thought
Larson had won, including himself. By the jury standards, people were really standing by the edge of the pool and within all the wave action that is generated
by the finishing of the swimmers, they still have to
just really use – use this. The stopwatches were first, Larson and second er,
Devitt, John Devitt. Incredibly, the chief judge declared
Devitt the winner. The incident, er,
in Rome was in fact that the judges made the decision,
made the call on who actually won the race, despite the fact
that the handheld stopwatches, as well as
the backup electronical system, showed other results. Each swimmer’s time had been recorded
by three timekeepers. But there were also three first place
and three second place judges who were split down the middle
in who they thought touched first. The advice of the chief judge
was sought and he decided in favour of Devitt, ruling that the times
should be ignored. It was clear that Larson was before Devitt, but they changed this
because the judge decided Devitt was in front of Larson. And only
one and a half years later a journalist found out
that they changed the times. These are frames
actually stopped from a film made
from that videotape. Now, you can see
the head in the water there. That is John Devitt of Australia. In the next lane down here, you cannot see the head
of our man, Lance Larson. He said that he was under the water
and touched under. You can see his foot, just back here. – Do you think he’s already touched or not?
– The controversy rumbled on for months, with an attempt even made
to have them declared joint winners. Nearly a year later,
it was settled. Devitt remained champion, while Larson’s time of 55.1 seconds was declared an Olympic record. The runner up swam faster
than the gold medal winner. After this event, OMEGA was thinking very hard about what we can do about this. How we can resolve the situation. The incident in 1960 in swimming made OMEGA decide
to develop electronic touch pads. The debacle
in the 1960 Olympics prompted OMEGA to develop
a revolutionary new technology. Nearly half a century later, another Olympic final
in the pool had a close finish, almost identical to that of Rome. While there was again
controversy, there was now a means
of timekeeping whereby the athlete
stopped the clock himself, which resulted
in a very different verdict. [END OF PART 2] [PART 3] [BELGRADE, SERBIA] One of the things
that we all dream about is to be remembered
in sport, and what it is that we did. Going to
the Beijing Olympic Games, I was
24 years old at that time and, [MILORAD ČAVIĆ, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 OLYMPIAN]
you know, I knew that this was my chance. This was the best shot
I was ever going to have at winning
an Olympic medal. Having set an Olympic record
in the semis, Milorad Čavić
was a firm favourite for the 100 meters
butterfly final. But he was up against a man looking
to reach his own very special milestone: a seventh gold
in one Olympic Games. I think back, like, the preparation
that went into that Olympics and like, that was
the best preparation I’ve ever had. You know, coming off
an amazing World Championships in, [MICHAEL PHELPS, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 OLYMPIAN]
in Melbourne the year before. I was prepared,
and I was ready. It was the day prior to my Olympic, er,
100 butterfly final. One American swimmer that I grew up with,
his name’s Aaron Peirsol, he had just walked off the podium with
his silver medal in the 100 backstroke. And you know, when I saw Aaron
I congratulated him and I was like, you know, ‘Man,
let me – let me take a look at this’, and I, and I literally
reached for the medal. And he grabbed the medal, and he said, ‘No, man, you might think this is pretty cool
and then mentally settle’. And, and he just grabbed it. He said, ‘I’m not going to give
this to you to touch. You’re going for the gold’. I remember
swimming the semi-final. I had a double that day. I had a 200 IM final
and 100 ‘fly semi. And after those two races, I remember walking down
the back hallway after doing media, and I was with Bob, and I said, ‘I’m done. I don’t have any more
energy left. I’m cashed’. And, to put it bluntly,
he kind of said, ‘Tough shit. You got a couple of other races to go
and you can suck it up’. Got up the next morning,
time to go again. Here’s the men’s 100 ‘fly final as we welcome you back
at the water cube and another one
of those rare chances to witness live something
to this date that has only happened once in the history of the 112 years
of the modern Olympic Games. It’s just an incredible silence
when you step up You know, the public is very,
very in tune with the race. You know, they’re there to see it. You know, they’re…everybody’s
holding their breath. Phelps now with his second
to last swim here of these Games which could change the face
of Olympic history. One of the toughest things
in those moments is really just being peaceful
on the outside. You see a lot of guys,
they’re shaking. You know,
you look at their legs and, if you ever see a guy just shaking
or shaking his legs, you know, right before a race, you know he’s sunk. You got him. So really,
what my job was to do was to go to the block, and,
and to be completely calm on the outside But just my mind is firing.
I’m ready to go. Do you remember
what he said before the race? Which part? I mean, it, er,
it would be good to see – to see me lose? Um, yeah, I mean, I – those are the – things like
that always motivate me and always fire me up. You know, when I heard that, it obviously
gave me a little extra juice and a little extra fuel. What does a man do when,
when the devil smiles at him? He smiles back. If I’m racing somebody,
I know exactly how they swim a race. Swimming next to Čavić,
I know he’s gonna be out in 22 plus. Me personally,
I can’t be out that fast. If I’m out that fast,
I don’t finish how I know I need to. So I swim my race. I’m, I’m not a very
religious person. I don’t go to church
every single week, but it was,
it was a religious moment for me, just because I knew
that I was destined for this day. I knew that I was destined for this event,
for this race, this moment. This was my time. Take your marks. He’s got to keep it close. He needs to be about 24 flat.
He’s 23.8 or 23.9. He will win but if Čavić has that
half second lead or more on Phelps, Phelps could be in major trouble. You know
Čavić is gonna be out very, very fast. For many of my competitors,
when they see me leading, it mentally breaks them. It gets them spinning more. That was expected.
Čavić has the lead. And at the turn,
you’re seventh. I mean, I, watched
the NBC coverage of it and, Rowdy was pretty much saying
that I’m fighting for a silver medal. This was a special event.
I was in the control room. I was watching, and for me it was clear,
Phelps is not able to win. He was behind after 50 metres. After 80 metres he was behind. I knew he always
struggles the last 15 metres, and that’s kind of my chance. That’s kind of my spot
where I have to make my move. I just remember feeling the splash
coming over on my face and into my lane, and I saw,
I saw it was getting closer and closer. Needs to get by Čavić, does he have enough
in the tank to get a gold. Čavić is swimming tough. Phelps is on him in Lane 5. I don’t know if he’s gonna catch him. At that moment, just the lack of oxygen
in your body and in your head, it makes things
very, very blurry for your eyes. You just kind of, you know,
it’s really, really exhausted. You know, we turn around
and look at the board, and it takes a couple of moments
just for everything to clear up. To the naked eye, watching that race He won the race.
To the naked eye, he won the race. He gets a gold again! He did it! He did it!
He got a gold again! I looked back and
I saw one 1/100th and I was like, ‘Holy shit!’
I was like, ‘That just happened’. Just at the end! Gets it done!
Four years ago Crocker, now it’s Čavić. You know, of course
I looked at my name and I saw, you know,
I saw a two next to it. You know, it’s, it’s all about,
you know, just – there’s a little bit of luck and really for,
for Michael it was luck. Magical! Watch Čavić. Here’s Čavić.
Watch the link. He lays out on it.
Stays and stays and stays, and somehow he gets over there. And watch Phelps.
Right there at the end. You’re right Dan,
you caught it right there. I didn’t think
he was gonna do it again, but somehow,
that great word you use – magical! Here he is, right there. Watch Michael.
He takes that extra half stroke. That’s what I thought cost him, but Čavić took too long of a stroke. If I were to take another full stroke, my arms would actually be
at the halfway point of my stroke, with my face hitting the wall. He knew that he was behind me, and he knew that if he had also
had a long finish, as I did, he would have lost. So his only option was
take another stroke but make it a half stroke. It’s not textbook. It’s not something
any coach ever wants you to do. I remember saying to myself as I was taking the stroke, I was like, ‘This just cost me the gold’.
Perfect. And Čavić, he did a big mistake. He was only sliding and he thought
the pad is coming against him. But this was not the case. And that is the slimmest of margins. You can’t get any closer than one 1/100th of a second. I knew as soon as I hit the wall and I saw I had won by a hundredth, I knew that one,
they were gonna protest it. Er, and two, that the evidence would come back
where I won the race. The pad is 12mm thick. And to finalise a race, he has to push 2mm
with the power from 1.5kg to 2.5kg, to close the contact, and he stops his time himself. Of course, we all saw the video. You know, to the naked eye,
it’s impossible to tell, and unfortunately,
we’ve got technology to kind of help us – help us out there. It’s all about judging your walls.
It’s all about making sure you hit the wall with the right amount of momentum
and the right amount of speed. It’s ridiculous. To think about it is just insane. It’s unbelievable, but miracles happen. I was at the right place
at the right time. You know,
it is what it is and I don’t necessarily feel like, you know, it was,
it was an injustice. Er, mistakes were made on my side. You know, er, there, there were things
that I could have done better which would have made it
a definite victory for myself. But my gut instinct is that I won. Well,
the results don’t lie. So that’s all I
– that’s all I got to say. I’m happy.
I’m happy the results don’t lie. It’s still shocking to me, to watch the race with the naked eye that I was able to win that race. Even looking at my mom
going like this, holding the number two up in the stand, and then when she sees I won, she just sunk in her seat. But then, you know, for me, like, seeing the SI, you know, frame by frame,
and watching it in slo-mo, there’s no question in my mind
that I won the race. You know, it’s heart-breaking
but at the same time, at that moment, at that moment,
I’d never won a medal at that level. You know, for me,
it was an incredible moment, but had I won, I really do believe
that would have been the end of my career. And because I didn’t get it, that is the only reason
I kept going. I would have no idea what to
– what to f- what he feels. I wish he was still in the sport. You know, he was somebody,
he was a great competitor of mine, and you know, like I said,
we had a lot of great races with one another. People,
they still talk about that race and I go back to, you know, every athlete
wanting to be remembered. I will be remembered and these swimmers,
you know, there are new swimmers coming up
and they know of me. They’ve never met me, but I’ve made a difference
in their lives. It was the best and the worst thing that ever happened to me, losing that Olympic gold. More accurate timekeeping, greater precision and finer margins. The impact of just
a few hundredths of a second can last a lifetime. [TRAFFORD ATHLETIC CLUB, MANCHESTER, UK]
This is your old athletics club. It is, and I’ve not been back
here for years. I haven’t set foot on the track for probably 20 years. [SHIRLEY STRONG, 1980, 1984 OLYMPIAN]
I was back here 10 years ago for the wake of my coach, bless him. And that’s it. I was a tomboy as a child. Um, so always running about,
playing football. But I had a games teacher
who saw something in me, and it was her that took me
to the local competitions, and my coach approached her when I was 14,
I think it was. He took me on
and he was my coach from the start of my international career,
certainly, until I finished. I’d never been abroad,
other than competing, but then to go to LA, and the razzmatazz
and it was amazing, it really was. And now
take me through qualification. – Was that pretty straightforward?
– Oh, no, no, no. The first round went OK. Er, the semi-final was dreadful. I had an absolutely awful race. Um, and panicked. And I still believe to this day
that if my coach had been there, he would have talked to me
and done the psychology. It’s important that you feel confident and I didn’t feel confident
for the final. I think if I’d spoken to Jim… Shirley Strong,
fifth in the World Championships last year in Helsinki,
in lane seven… I was quaking.
I was petrified. And Shirley has
a big following in Great Britain. A lot of youngsters are likely
to take up hurdling if she does well here, and she’s already done well of course,
to get to this final. All you can see is the track,
and those 10 hurdles, and that’s it. You are very, very focused at that point.
You don’t think about anybody at home. And my coach once said to me, ‘When you get really nervous’, he says, ‘Just pretend you’re
at Stretford at the track, and you’re in a training session’. And that actually worked for me. ‘Cos it blocked everything else out. Three Americans, two French girls,
an Australian and our own Shirley Strong. Away first time. Shirley Strong starting well,
so too did Kim Turner. Shirley Strong is after her. and Shirley Strong in fourth. Benita Fitzgerald-Brown.
Shirley Strong’s getting away. Shirley Strong and the American girl. Shirley Strong and the American girl,
Benita Fitzgerald-Brown. Fitzgerald-Brown! I didn’t see Benita
until probably the 6th hurdle. I think I was an inch or so
ahead until that point, and that’s when I spotted her.
I think it was the 7th I knocked slightly. Now, whether it’s because
I saw her through the corner of my eye, and that’s what made me falter,
I don’t know. I knew she was there, I knew she was there,
right till the very end, and I thought I could have got her,
but she just – I knew that I’d lost it. Did you? [Yeah] You realised that as you
crossed the line? Yeah, you do, you know. Shirley Strong and the American girl,
Benita Fitzgerald-Brown. Fitzgerald-Brown! Shirley Strong gets the silver. Chardonnet the bronze.
Kim Turner is fourth, and that was a remarkable run
by the American girl, and so sad for Shirley
because she led for much of the race. It was four hundredths of a second,
so it was close. Blink of an eye. But I think even a hundredth,
two hundredths, you know. In your heart, you know. And I looked up.
I remember looking up at the screen, just praying that I’d got it wrong. But I knew really that I hadn’t. I knew I’d got second. Shirley Strong, so close.
A magnificent silver medal. It really is a very fine run indeed. I tried to go up
and just shake her hand. I’m not saying she ignored me
but she was tied up with Kim. And I do remember just walking away
and shaking my hand like that. – You look – you looked really disappointed.
– Pee’d off. Yeah, I was. I was just so upset. And Shirley, well, she may look
a little disappointed. She raced her heart out. She ran magnificently. The truth is, Ron, she’s run almost
as fast as she’s ever run before. And she did absolutely
nothing wrong at all. Oh, I was absolutely devastated. I wanted that gold so much. Perhaps she wanted it more. Such a fine margin, isn’t it?
I know, I know. It was awful and I did shed
a couple of tears before ‘cos they were trying to
get me over to see the press. But I just had to compose myself first. Everything I do,
I’m very, very competitive. And I like to win. And if you don’t win, it’s not good, is it?
You’re not happy. But for something so massive, to not win,
I was absolutely devastated. Took me a long, long time
to get over that. – Really?
– Mm. A long time. I didn’t look at my race
for probably 15 years afterwards, because I was so gutted
that I didn’t get the gold. I couldn’t watch it.
It was too upsetting. Even now, I can feel my gut
tightening up because it’s just – It’s like a different person did all that.
Not me. I’m a mum now. And I’ve just got
an ordinary job, ordinary life. That’s it.
I’m just like everybody else. But you still did do
something pretty extraordinary. Yeah. I’m a member of the Olympians
and – I’ve got a medal. So yeah. Although it’s only silver. I wanted the gold. Desperately wanted the gold. But it wasn’t to be. Over a decade later, the Games would return
to the United States and bear witness to
one of the most dramatic finishes in Olympic history. [END OF PART 3] [PART 4] In the history
of Olympic close finishes, there is one standout competitor. [ATLANTA, GEORGIA, USA] Now to be found
at Patrick Elementary School in suburban Georgia, USA. Explain why we’re at this school Oh, Patrick Elementary.
First of all, my daughters go here. [GAIL DEVERS,]
And for the last six years, 1998, 1992, 1996, 2000 OLYMPIAN]
I’ve just been volunteering. When I’m in town,
I’m here every day. [LAUGHS] …in here.
So we’ll do that. And then they have this on this side. I love to see the little ones
when they come in at five and they’re scared
and some of them are crying, and then by the time
they’re graduating, they’re like, a leader, you know? And it’s exciting
to watch them grow, and just to teach them that
dreams come true and you can do anything you wanna do.
Just keep believing. It’s awesome.
So this is where I am. At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Gail Devers won the 100 metres final by one 1/100th of a second, with the fifth place runner
only a tenth of a second behind. At her home Olympics in Atlanta
four years later, she went in as the favourite – just. I declare open the Games of Atlanta. This is something that you train for. The Olympics comes around
only once every four years. It was like,
this is what you have. This is the only time you have, and in less than 11 seconds,
you got to get it done. In lane three, the 1993 World Champion, the 1992 Olympic 100m gold medallist representing the USA,
Gail Devers. You have really trained
for this moment, so if you don’t have
some type of confidence, you know, I always tell people,
‘Look in my eyes’. My friends knew if I was ready to run, based off of the intense you know, my game face. I had my game face on and it’s, you know, yeah,
you’re next to your competitors. It’s eight lanes, and it’s real close. It’s, you know, but you have to
have that tunnel vision. Staying in your lane
and just concentrating on ‘Got to get out. Got to do what I need to do
and get to 105 metres’. You couldn’t pick a favourite. You could have somebody
that you would want to win but when it came down to it,
you knew that those ladies on that line
were gonna give it their all. So you had to go from start to finish.
That’s why I say 105. I didn’t run 100 metres.
I ran 105 because I know 105 will get me
across the finish line. One thing I did over and over and over
was I replayed my race I saw myself crossing the finish line. What I tried to do was be catlike. You know, if you scare a cat,
they’re gone. You know, so that’s what I wanna be. When the gun goes off,
I wanna act like I’m a cat and I wanna get out. My goal was to get out the blocks
before everybody. And they get away this time.
Gail Devers got a very good start. Ottey’s struggling slightly a metre or two down. I remember getting out and wanting to be really
explosive in my start, and that middle phase is like, OK you’ve got to relax I mean, how can you relax in a, in – you know, in an intense race but you’ve got to relax to the point that you don’t keep trying to go,
trying to go Relax and then when I get to the end, I’m at my last 80 metres, last 20 metres of the race, it’s like, forward. Lean in the direction that
you want to go in and so that’s forward. I don’t wanna come up and I’m running up. I’m leaning in this direction,
getting my chin down. Just, you know, that – this kind of beat instead of you know, that,
that drumbeat, making it consistent. And when I ran,
I usually wore my hair like a ponytail up here
and the rest of it hanging down And I did that on purpose so that when
I came across the finish line if I’m whipping, I’m, I’m like throwing,
‘cos I can feel my hair moving And then I know I went across
the finish line the right way and it’s worked. Merlene Ottey coming strong.
Devers trying to hold on. It’s gonna be Devers, I think. From Merlene Ottey.
Very, very close indeed. Who knows? We shall wait for
the photograph to come up. We shall give you the result
as soon as we possibly can. I don’t think a slo-mo might even give us
a definitive line on that. What did you think
when you crossed the line? I have no clue what happened.
[LAUGHS] I mean – and, it’s odd that like, you can – you can separate
your race into zones and into parts but once you come across the finish line,
because it was so close. It was so close, you don’t know. I mean, it’s like,
you’re waiting and you’re waiting. Like, just say somebody’s name
to take the tension off the moment. So I just listened for my name. How many times has Merlene Ottey got
to stand and look and wait for the photo finish
to give her the verdict, gold or silver? People were saying,
‘I think you got her, I think you got her’. I’m like, ‘You are not in charge here.
I’m gonna wait till I hear it from above’. The athletes on the track
at the moment still don’t know. As you see this replay, watch this.
I thought – oh! Impossible to tell from that angle.
It really is, it’s a blur… The people in the stands knew the winner
before we knew. And so we’re just listening and listening,
and we get that after effect, like it will – we’ll hear
like, the echo and we really don’t hear
what they’re saying, so they have to repeat
it again. And by the time we hear it,
everybody’s already cheering. So we’re like, ‘OK, something happened.
What was it? What was it?’ … And the winner is Gail Devers. Once they said my name,
I mean, I was just elated. It was just that kind of like, ‘Oh my goodness. I’ve done it!
I’ve done it for myself. I’ve done it for my country. This is something that I had on my wall
forever and it’s come true’. And I took off, taking my victory lap. And I remember the cameraman,
he had this big camera, and he’s trying to run with me
and he was like, ‘Slow down!
You’re supposed to savour the moment’. I’m like, ‘You just don’t know.
Come on, we got to go!’ Of course I was there. [PETER HÜRZELER, OMEGA TIMING BOARD MEMBER]
Maybe Ottey, she made a mistake, because at the finish line
you have to put your body in front. Because, the breast is important
to give the time. They went down to, like,
you know, thousandths of a second. That’s, that’s, that’s very close. – I mean, the technology is extraordinary.
– It’s amazing. I mean, I like it. And because it’s not – you know, it’s not, it’s not a sport
that’s off of a judgement. You can – like you said, even in the commentators
had different opinions but when it came down to it,
and you actually look at the camera angle or look at the footage from different angles
and actually see the time, based off of the, the lane,
it is what it is. So it was the high speed finish line camera
with a thousand lines per second which showed you to be the winner. Oh, I love technology!
[LAUGHS] Gail Devers.
[CHEERING] Gail’s combined margin of victory
in those two photo finish finals in ’92 and ’96, a single one 1/100th of a second, once again emphasising
the split second difference between success and failure. You have to have vision
and you have to believe in yourself. But you don’t have to aspire
to be an Olympian. You can be
a gold medal winner in life. [OMEGA TIMING
CORGÉMONT] Technology has evolved a lot,
in the last 80 years, of course. Those are the new photo cells that are going to be introduced
in Rio for the very first time. Before, we had only two photo cells,
now we’ve got four. We’ll have the bandwidth
that is a lot bigger. This is the latest version of the OMEGA Magic Eye,
introduced in ’48. What we’re actually trying
to simulate here is the finish line of an athletics race. Those are the OMEGA photo finish cameras. The new ones, Myrias. They scan the first 6mm
of the finish line, and this 10,000 times per second. So this is – these guys are
just testing it and testing it? They’re testing and testing
and testing and testing. Yes. [PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA] Five seconds. Make your mark. So you’re going again? One more.
One more. One more shot at it. No matter what happens, at this point I’ll be able
to look back and say I did everything I could.
I’m older, I don’t recover as fast. And there are a lot of little things that I need to make sure
I’m on top of now, more than I ever have in my life. And I’m swimming
against all these young bucks. There’s a reason
why OMEGA is the Olympic timekeeper, because they provide
the best technology in the world. I think that – that goes
hand in hand with me not wanting to look 20 years
down the road and say, ‘Why didn’t I just suck up
the pain for a little bit to get that lifetime of glory?’

16 Replies to “OMEGA – Every Split Second Counts (The History of Olympic Timekeeping)”

  1. Nice documentary but there was a chance to add in the story of the bronze medal in Shirley Strong's race from the LA games – basically 3rd was originally judged a dead heat, the decision was changed right before the medal ceremony then a few months later was changed again due to the IOC president Samaranch.

  2. Amazing Documentary! Thank you very much for that look behind the Scenes! Impressive stories behind each finish.

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