The Starting Pistol to be used at the Olympics is a Plastic E-Gun by Omega | Bob's Blitz

The Starting Pistol to be used at the Olympics is a Plastic E-Gun by Omega

On your mark, get set, bang! We're all familar with the sound of the starting pistol at the beginning of Olympic style track & field events. The 2012 Olympics? An E-Gun, a 'futuristic' device composed of a flash gun and a sound generation box (above), created by Omega Watches.

Omega reports: "When the starter presses its trigger, three things happen simultaneously: a sound is “played”, a light flash is emitted and a start pulse is given to the timing device. By pressing the trigger a second time within two seconds, the false start will be audibly signalled. The sounds can be changed and downloaded by computer.

As was the case with traditional powder pistols, the sound will be reproduced by speakers near each competitor, guaranteeing that they will hear the signal at the same time. At some venues, the audio signals will also be put on the public address system.

This year in London, our new equipment will include a highly advanced timer (below) and an updated athletics starting block. But these, and the rest of our devices, have the same aim as the chronograph stopwatches used to time each event at the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games: to record for posterity the extraordinary performances of the best athletes in the world."

"It was becoming more and more difficult and painful to travel with a gun," said Christophe Berthaud, the Olympic manager and GM of Omega, the official timekeeper of the Games. "It is not something that is [easy] when you want to go on a plane, it's not something that's [easy] when you want to bring the equipment into the sports venue."

The trigger was designed with the same sensitivity as the old pistol to keep officials from needing to make any sort of transition. Once pulled, it instantaneously triggers the start of the timing system.

Two lights at the pistol's tip light up when fired to mimic the flash of the blanks (powder that makes a cap sound) from the old gun.

The noise comes out of a fully equipped sound system with 15 different blast settings to suit a host of different sports and venues. The electric pistol is attached by a cord, kind of like a guitar hooked to an amplifier.

"But it's less difficult to learn how to play it, you don't need years of training," Berthaud said.


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