Olympic Games: how Omega timers changed swimming

Well, now that the opening ceremonies are mercifully over, it is time to get into the main attraction: the Olympic Games. I look forward to this every couple of years – because of course, I have to watch the Winter Games as well as the Summer. This year, however, I got to thinking about what makes the games tick and how they might have been different in the past.

One competition that is easily recognisable as having been changed drastically by technology is swimming. While the business of swimming is the same as it ever was, the means by which swimmers’ times are kept have changed greatly. When, I wondered, did those sensors at the ends of the pool become part of the game?

My answer came from Carly Geehr, former U.S. Swim Team member and current User Interface designer, on Quora:

In swimming, touchpads were introduced by Omega at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg. This “wet” run was used as a test of the Swim-O-Matic system before the Mexico City summer games in 1968, where they were used for the first time in Olympic competition. Electronic timing itself was first used in athletics events in the Olympics all the way back in the 1948 London Games, but it wasn’t until the 1968 Olympics (Grenoble/Mexico City) that electronic timing became the primary method of determining finish order – both in and out of the water.

The Omega website goes on to say that the original Omega contact pads went into production in 1962, having made the breakthrough of developing a sensor that would not be affected by splashing waves, but would accurately detect a human hand pressed against it. To this day, Omega is the only brand used for Olympic swim meet timekeeping.

The road to accurate timing, Carly notes, is paved with close calls that demanded better timekeeping. The 1960 Olympics in Rome featured a 100m freestyle that was mired in controversy as she notes and as is also noted in one competitor’s Wikipedia entry. When Lance Larson came from behind to take what to most eyes appeared to be the win, but that win was denied by the line judges of the time, even the timekeepers showed him with the faster time. Omega notes that in modern times, electronic cameras have confirmed their keeper’s accuracy, electronic starting guns that replaced the old firecrackers and start blocks that can detect false starts have made accuracy within fractions of a second the standard for Olympic racing.

So keep in mind as you watch this year’s games in London: you are most emphatically not watching your daddy’s Games.

Media Technology

Copyright Run Amok: Chrysler’s Superbowl ad blocked on their own YouTube channel

An amusing copyright snafu for your Super Bowl Monday: Chrysler has a social application running on their YouTube channel, inviting you to share their inspirational advertisement from the Super Bowl last night. I didn’t get to see it last night, so I thought I’d go ahead and check it out this morning.

One problem, though: the advert that Chrysler paid for apparently has an image of NFL stuff in it. So the NFL apparently has blocked it. Perhaps YouTube’s own bots have blocked it automatically, impossible to say for the moment.

But oh, what a deliciously embarrassing copyright snafu! I mean: silencing the voices of common people is what it’s all about. But you’re not supposed to block the inalienable corporate right to make money. Everybody knows that.

chrysler’s Channel – YouTube.


Chips, Dips and Automobiles: Nielson’s analysis of Superbowl advertising.

Everybody loves Superbowl advertisements. Yes, of course, we all know a few people for whom the adverts are the only reason to watch every year. Just drop those people off at TC Hooligans and enjoy your Superbowl experience without them..

But how much money gets spent per industry? The answers are somewhat surprising, according to a recent Nielson report. That begins with the fact that, over the course of the last five years, the cost of an advertisement has gone down by year. From a peak of $105k per 30-second ad down to a low in 2009 of $94k. Even last year’s $96k is modest by those standards. It’s not hard to imagine that these numbers track somewhat with the economy (the biggest drop being in 2009, right after our Great Recession got into full-swing).

But the numbers by industry make you wonder if the automotive industry doesn’t need to do a little more comparison shopping for its ads: their lowest-cost year swamps the highest-cost year of the tortilla chip industry (heh. Doritos, IOW). And do you really remember any auto ads from the Superbowl other than last year’s Detroit advert?

The Super Bowl Investment: Ad Spend Trends Over the Past Five Super Bowls | Nielsen Wire.

And for more Superbowl info from Nielson, here’s a great infographic on the breakdowns of the audience for this year’s game:

Giants vs Patriots: Playbook for the Social Super Bowl | Nielsen Wire

And for more memorable ads (including a Firestone and Volkswagen ad):

Super Bowl’s Greatest Hits: Top 10 Most Liked Ads of the Past Five Years | Nielsen Wire


DFE Sports Break: Fuck the Superbowl

Ok, I think I’ve just about had enough.

What are we watching the Superbowl for? Or maybe the better question is: why is the Superbowl any kind of big deal? Any kind of bigger deal than, say, a regular season Monday Night Football?

Sure, I get that athletes – conditioned from birth to celebrate meaningless, repetitive annual milestones like bowl and homecoming games as though they were some sort of Homeric, once-in-a-lifetime kind of feat – can only be expected to take this game seriously. But the rest of us? Judging on the entirely unscientific data gleaned from my Twitter feed, I’m going to say that many people out there are as confused as I am.

Personally, I really don’t need much of an excuse to eat dietetically-ill-advised hors d’oeuvres and drink excessively. And I don’t think you do, either. But if that’s what it takes to make you and your loved ones set aside your dietary restrictions for an evening and truly enjoy the wonderful/awful fury of a good firehouse chili, then that’s a good thing. I’m just saying: I’m sure Arbor Day would suffice if we really tried. Why the Superbowl?

Is it the commercials? Lots of us watch the Superbowl in anticipation of some of the best commercials we’ll see all year. But that anticipation was thwarted early, wasn’t it? Many commercials “leaked” to the Internet well in advance of the game. “Leaked”, that is, from the most expensive to the most viral and effective medium for commercials. Strange, huh? And its probably just as well, anyway: Superbowl commercials this year were at best tepid and at worst violent or offensive as in the PepsiCo and Groupon commercials. And I’m here to tell you: I really enjoy a little violence and offensive humor. I just prefer my humor funny, is the only thing.

God help you if you’re tuning into the Superbowl for the halftime show. I mean, for a start, you’ve got to wait through like an hour of crap you didn’t want to watch to get to the five minutes of crap you did want to watch. I’m sure that there are plenty of live videos of your favourite stars on YouTube for ready consumption, but you chose to sit and tap your foot impatiently for an hour, frustrating loved ones and alienating friends over one single pop group? Really?

Besides which, there was a time when you could count on seeing Aerosmith, Prince, Tom Petty,… just about anybody on stage for the halftime show. At the same time. It was still overdone and cheesy, but at least it was several flavours of cheese, all melted together like a nice fondue. When was the last time that happened? I think it might have been the Tom Petty halftime show. Now you’ve just got one pop sensation – the Black Eyed Peas – playing an overdone show with inexplicable marching people in light-up Tron costumes and a cameo by Slash with Fergie doing a fairly limp Axl impression. Oh, yeah. And Usher. Right, that whole thing. Is that what you stayed up late for?

But then: there is a football game in there. And in all honesty, it was a pretty damned good game this year, albeit overshadowed by the criminal records and accusations of sexual violence that marks the Superbowl Class of 2011.Wonderful. Again, if this was a regular season game, would you care? You’d watch – I’d watch – but would it be as imbued with meaning, with mysticism, with wonder? I don’t think so.

The problem isn’t the game. It’s not the commercials. Its not the half time show – and I’m being generous, here. The problem is that there comes a point when you simply cannot top what you’ve done last year and we’re about a decade past that point. The even cannot possibly live up to the hype, the cost, the promise of pageantry and triumph. It’s just a freakin’ football game, after all.


Nick Tahou’s Stadium?

Of course by now you’ve certainly heard the bad news: PAETEC is no longer sponsoring or naming the stadium that the Rhinos play in. Hate to say it, but I think we’re officially seeing the company that grew so fast over the last few years cratering before our eyes. The light that burns twice as bright, and all that, I suppose.

So who will pick up the sponsorship of the stadium after this? Not that I’ve ever been to a soccer game or plan on it, but I’d hate to see a stadium sized opium den installed within eyesight of Kodak’s ninth-floor cafeteria. I vote for Nick Tahou’s, personally. At least you know they’re not going anywhere.

But who else could sponsor the stadium?

Lyell Ave Smoke Shop Stadium?
The Diplomat Party House and Stadium?
Naughty and Nice and Soccer Stadium?
The Mirage Stadium?

Hmm. . . lots of potential, there. . .


Rock On, Raj Man!

And as if to prove the point made in my last post. . .

I’m very stoked to see one of my favourite current U.S. gymnasts from the Olympic trials – edged out of the team until today – is going to Beijing to compete for the U.S.: Raj Bhavsar. The unfortunate injury of Paul Hamm, last Olympics’ U.S. superstar, created one empty space to be filled, and Raj just got the nod to fill it.

So, pack up your Hepa filter, grab a wet towel to cover your face and head on out to Beijing, Raj man!  The wife and I are pulling for ya.


Favre Leaves Green Bay for The Jets?!?

I rarely comment on sports on this blog, though I have to admit that some Olympic stuff is bound to come up in the next few weeks.  And on this latest news coming out of the world of football, I really feel compelled to comment.

Brett Favre leaves Green Bay for the Jets?  Isn’t that a little like taking a shit in reverse?  Maybe it’s just me.


Mistakes Happen. . .

Rodger Clemens has begun apologizing for “mistakes in his personal life” today. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, we lock ourselves out of the house in spring when the keys are in our coats. Sometimes, we weave a bit too much in traffic because we’re on a cellphone call we know we shouldn’t be on. And yes, sometimes we inadvertently spend a bit too much time warming up the ol’ bat in a fifteen year old’s dugout:

Roger Clemens apologizes for ’mistakes in personal life’ –

Roger Clemens apologized today for unspecified mistakes in his personal life but denied having an affair with a 15-year-old.

“Even though these articles contain many false accusations and mistakes, I need to say that I have made mistakes in my personal life for which I am sorry,” Clemens said in a statement issued by spokesman Patrick Dorton. “I have apologized to my family and apologize to my fans. Like everyone, I have flaws. I have sometimes made choices which have not been right.”

Exactly. We all have flaws and make bad choices. Though in Mr. Clemens’ defense, it should be pointed out that the fifteen year old in question was pumped full of performance enhancing drugs at the time and had the strength of ten teenie boppers.


Feel the Burn. . .

You can survive for one hour. One hour only, but that aught to be enough. We’ve got scientists crunching the numbers.

“Oh, smashing news,” you say. “Hang on. Survive where? The moon?” No, Beijing, the world’s most polluted city, which is hosting the Olympic Games. Now, get out there and compete:

Athletes safe in Beijing air for up to an hour: IOC | Reuters

International Olympic Committee scientists have proved that Beijing’s air will present no health risk to athletes competing for up to an hour at the 2008 Games, IOC chief inspector Hein Verbruggen said on Wednesday.


The End of Sport in Rochester?

Well, it appears as though just about every minor league team in Rochester is in danger of either collapsing or leaving because of some exceedingly bad financial moves by the ownership.  That’s the news from the D&C today, in their piece entitled “Fast-ferry future for city’s teams?,” an unmistakably gleeful choice of words.

The question in my mind is: are these bad financial dealings the result of an inept leadership or were they the desperate tactics of a failing business model?  The truth is doubtless somewhere in the middle, but it makes a  big difference in terms of what happens next.  My suspicion has always been that the city’s market is just too small to support all those teams, especially for things like soccer and arena football, which are niche sports with a very small audience in the first place.

I’m just hoping that, in an effort to save face for the city, the mayor doesn’t decide to try to take over Paetec Park unless it can be proven to be a money-maker.  I would say that we need to have someone take a serious look at what kind of entertainment/sports venues this city can really support – that we could use a master plan against which to work – but I think we all know by now these things are run by the contractors, not by our elected officials.

Vive la CMCE.


What is So Wrong About Steroids?

It’s funny, but Tommy Mule on WCMF was just talking about some of this on my ride into work today. I’d meant to write this up last night, but didn’t get the time. . .

Really, what is it about steroids that is so bad? I don’t mean that they’re not bad, but I’m just wondering what it is about them that we object to so strenuously while not in the same moment objecting to any number of other chemicals players dope their bodies up with. There is an entire industry built around the idea of either making professional athletes stronger or patching up injuries so they can go back out onto the field and play hurt. Are we so sure what they’re doing is ethical simply because they might have eschewed the use of one chemical over another?

It is an interesting question once you begin to dig beneath the veneer of major league sports and get at the truth of what they’re all doing. Really, ethics are a very relative thing in a world where athletes push their bodies beyond breaking and corporations making billions actively encourage it so they can sell beer during the commercials. And it’s a fair question: are we just kidding ourselves about the steroids thing?


Bud Selig: Douchebag of the Week

Hmm. . . Perhaps I’ll get a series started: Douchebag of the Week. It has a great Friday ring to it doesn’t it?

Anyway, allow me to say I could really give a rat’s patoot what MLB jocks do to their bodies, with the exception that impressionable young kids might get the idea that “doping until you die” is the way to excel in this world. That said, if the Mitchell report has revealed anything, it’s that there is no possible way Bud Selig could not have known what was going on. Hell, there had to be gumball machines filled with steroids in every locker room across America, and this douche has the balls to say this:

MLB report outs stars; Selig vows action – Yahoo! News

“If there are problems, I wanted them revealed,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “His report is a call to action, and I will act.”

Yes. It’s a call to action. And the action is: why don’t you go outside and play a game of Hide and Go F*ck Yourself.