Gold Medal Technology

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Date posted: August 7, 2012

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Photograph: Francois Xavier Marit/AFP/Getty Images

The London 2012 Summer Olympics are without a doubt the most high-tech Olympic Games yet, from new CityScan technology that assesses the effects of increased traffic on the city’s pollution levels to the most high-tech labs in the history of the Games being used to test athletes for performance-enhancing substances.

200,000 hours of QA testing went into inspecting London 2012’s timing, scoring and results systems, while the back-end team worked around the clock long before the Games were even in sight for the average viewer. They make it possible for the 14,700 athletes to complete the qualification process – and thus compete! – and for the Games to generate credentials for and assign access privileges to the 200,000 people involved. The tech work carried out behind the scenes is amazing, so we compiled some of the most interesting tidbits for you tech-geek Olympic fans out there!

THINK ABOUT High Definition. Four miles of fiber optic cables link London’s Olympic Park to the BBC’s Television Centre. The cables will carry ultra-high definition video at a resolution of 7680×4320, an astounding 16 times the quality of HD television. The video is sent to the world’s first ultra-high definition production center, located at the BBC. It’s then sent over high-speed data networks to four giant screens around Britain, two in Japan and one in the United States. As Tim Plyming, the BBC’s Super Hi-Vision project leader, explains, “When you see this type of ultra-high definition television, it’s just like looking though a glass window . . . This is the highest definition that the human eye can understand – it’s the end of the story in terms of resolution.” If we’ve come so far with HD that we have to specify between regular high definition and ultra-high definition, just imagine where 3D will be for the 2016 Summer Games!

DID YOU KNOW that Olympics timekeeping technology can now measure athletes’ performances to the nearest one thousandth of a second? It’s all thanks to a quantum timing system – that’s 40 times faster than the blink of an eye! It is amazing that we’re now watching athletes compete for medals that can be won by the difference of .001 of a second.

SUSTAINABLE AND GREEN technology has made the London 2012 Games the “greenest” games of modern times. This video explains all the steps the city took to green the Olympic site. One of the coolest energy-saving initiatives is the addition of energy-harvesting floor tiles on a walkway to Olympic Park. By the end of the Games, these tiles are expected to receive more than 12 million impressions, generating 72 million joules of energy – enough power to charge 10,000 mobile phones for an hour.

THE DIGITAL VIEWER gets to see the Games up close and personal this year with a London 2012 Olympic Games Facebook portal, an official phone, and a bunch of Olympics Mobile Apps. It is clear that the London 2012 Summer Games are dedicated to the digital and the mobile viewer, and these aren’t the only signs. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is streaming the Games live on YouTube so that fans across 64 countries in Asia and Africa have free access to the live Games in HD. NBC is also streaming the Games live on NBCOlympics.com for anyone with a cable, satellite or Telco TV subscription that includes access to NBC’s channels.

With all of the new tech features and components present in the London 2012 Olympic Games, we the viewers get to sit back and enjoy this summer’s Olympic feats – both athletic and technological. The Olympics are about going big or going home, and just as it’s hard to believe what these athletes can accomplish every two years, we can only imagine what the next Games will have in store for us when it comes to ever-advancing high-tech wonders.

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