Omega Praises Sochi for Overcoming "Incredible Challenge"

(ATR) Despite hiccups, Olympic timekeeper Omega says spectators and athletes can be sure of the results they measure. 

The president of Omega has high praise for Sochi Olympic organizers, saying seven years ago when the city was awarded the Games, "there was nothing here, not even a stone."

Stephen Urquhart said that building everything from scratch for the Winter Olympics was "an incredible challenge."

"They’ve done an incredible job, I must say," he reminisced in an exclusive interview with Around the Rings.

"My team has been coming for three, four years. I came last year and I stayed in the other Radisson that is now the IOC hotel. I was at the Fisht Stadium [for the one-year-to-go event]. There was nothing here, not even a stone."

Not everything is perfect, he conceded, saying there are some small problems with hotels for Omega staffers.

"There are a few hiccups, of course. This is normal. We’re not robots."

For the Olympics, Urquhart said Omega is employing 280 timekeepers and will have approximately 100 staff working in marketing and hospitality.

The TOP sponsor also installed 230 tons of equipment.

"It’s crazy," Urquhart noted.

"Brought over is one thing, installed ... in the mountains, there were no roads a year ago. Hats off to the whole Omega team for what they did."

Nothing groundbreaking will be introduced for timekeeping in Sochi, Urquhart said. Some aspects, like a G-force indicator on bobsleds, will be tested in Sochi, but they are not ready for use in the Olympics. Otherwise, Omega is working on "small details" that most people will not notice. The starting gun is one of those details.

"It sounds stupid, like a gun is a gun, but if you work it out, at the starting block, a swimmer, or athlete, or even a speedskater, who is further away from the gun will hear it one millionth of a second later. This is in a way not fair. We have this gun that is completely the same noise for all the participants."

He said 100 percent certainty for all systems is probably not possible, but Omega will have "fool-proof systems" to give athletes and spectators "100 percent confidence" in the results.

Omega also sees strong marketing opportunities in Russia as a result of the Olympics

"I think it gives us a great platform here. It’s waiting to happen," he said of Russia’s appetite for high-end watches.

"It’s a big, big market. It’s a very upper market here. Sochi, although it doesn’t look like Russia, I think all Russia is behind this. We feel very good vibes from the market here."

He said it is difficult to compare a Summer Games to a Winter Games but he sees similarities between Beijing and Sochi.

"It was a coming out for the Chinese country, per se," Urquhart said of the Beijing Games. "Omega being very strong in China, it was a great jumpstart for us. It’s the same thing here."

Written by Ed Hula III

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