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ARCHIVED - Photo essay: Science of the Olympics

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  • photo
  • Physics takes to the air
  • Bodies in motion
  • Going for green
  • Speed testing
  • Getting into position
  • Tiny but strong
  • Lightweight protection
  • Low-tech timing
  • Faster than the blink of an eye
  • Laser versus infrared
  • Staying in sync
  • Making heat from ice
  • Protecting Whistler’s waterways
  • Video
 At the 1936 Winter Games, alpine skiing races were timed using stopwatches

Low-tech timing

Long before the introduction of automatic starting gates, alpine skiing races were timed using two synchronized stopwatches. At the 1936 Winter Games in Germany, timekeepers positioned at the start and finish lines recorded the times of each skier using a stopwatch. The times were then written on a piece of paper. “After a few skiers had descended, the paper with the start times was put in the trouser pocket of the next skier in the hope that he would make it to the end of the course and take it to the race office,” states the website of OMEGA, which handled official timekeeping duties at the 1936 Games. Race times were then calculated to the nearest one tenth of a second.

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