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Swatch keeps time in Athens

Heather Sparks

Olympics timing
We haven't gotten around to watching too much of the Athens Olympics but when we have watched we've been pausing the TiVo frequently to try and catch what technology they're using to time events. And it's the time-obsessed Swiss gadgeteers at Swatch determining who gets the gold, silver, and bronze (you may remember our feature about timing the Tour de France). During last Monday's 100-meter backstroke race, for instance, Swatch touch-sensitive pads accurately measured the one-hundredth-of-a-second difference between second- and third-place swimmers. The call would have been impossible without the technology. Track event cameras are even more sensitive, taking 1,000 images per second at the finish line. Swatch is also measuring volleyball serves with sonar, pacing cyclists via transponders, and tracking marathoners with microchips tied to their shoes. But what we really want to know is, will they be able to aid the beleaguered judges of men's gymnastics by 2008 in Beijing? (Poor Paul Hamm).

[Thanks, Brian]

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