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Presenting Olympic finishing times in auditory format
March 1, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

What do the Olympic finishing times sound like? It's sometimes hard to grasp the significance of the times or how close it was just by the numbers or even the photo finishes.

In a field which is dominated by visual representation of data, this comes as an interesting approach. This type of auditory presentation of data was also featured in David Suzuki's Sacred Balance contrasting the 'song' of healthy versus diseased hearts.
posted by kch (35 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a great way to understand how close these races are. 15 men finished within 1 second of the gold medalist time in the Men's Downhill. That's crazy!
posted by milestogo at 10:30 AM on March 1, 2010


I'd love to say that this was an eye-opening experience but it doesn't seem like the right thing to say.
posted by skullbee at 10:32 AM on March 1, 2010


Interesting, though I would have used a sound with less reverberation and a sharper attack (the classic metronome click would be perfect here).. Is it just me or are some of the closer together sounds being elided?
posted by idiopath at 10:32 AM on March 1, 2010


So, who here knows how they actually time the athletes so accurately? Is it whenever the first millimeter of body part crosses the plane? Is it camera based or something else? Does equipment trigger it? (think holding your ski poles out in front of you at the finish) How do they get the results on TV so friggan fast?
posted by Mach5 at 10:45 AM on March 1, 2010


Goddamn this rules
posted by Damn That Television at 10:46 AM on March 1, 2010


For the cross-country skiing at least, the instant, and TV-reported, times come from a tag on the competitors' ankles but the official, and deciding, results are based on toes crossing the line. In one of the heats, a young german lady basically lost out because she had smaller feet than one of the others - her tag crossed the line first, and she thought she'd qualified, but a replay showed her toes were behind the lady next to her.
posted by gregjones at 10:49 AM on March 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


And of course, there's always Jerry Seinfeld's take on winning the silver medal.
posted by brandman at 10:53 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Best use of the Internet I've seen all day.

Not to be too critical when I come here to praise, but if old media does more stuff like this, there might be hope for the Grey Lady yet.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:56 AM on March 1, 2010


times come from a tag on the competitors' ankles but the official, and deciding, results are based on toes crossing the line.

Toes of which foot? Or is it both?

It seems to me this whole thing could be scientificized a bit. Which times are statistically significant based on variations in run times? Then award (multiple) medals groupwise. Everyone statistically indistinguishable from the fastest racer gets a gold, etc.
posted by DU at 11:08 AM on March 1, 2010


This is what curling sounds like.
posted by chavenet at 11:12 AM on March 1, 2010


Toes of which foot?

The first to cross, obviously.
posted by Dasein at 11:14 AM on March 1, 2010


Ah, sweet hangover Monday.

That's a really cool way of representing information, and it shows how high the level of competition is at the Olympic level. Any of those athletes would mop the floor with ninety-nine percent of the field in their chosen sports, and their only real competition is with the tiny elite that also operate at the edge of human achievement.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:15 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, who here knows how they actually time the athletes so accurately?

FIS Timing Rules, used for the downhill events. The start is triggered by pushing a thin bar out of the way, and the finish is timed by photocells looking for a break at the finish line.

They have two independent timing systems, and they also do backup manual hand timing (which seems a bit silly at this level of precision).
posted by smackfu at 11:17 AM on March 1, 2010


Curling brooms haven't slapped like that since the 80's, chavenet. I recall straw brooms with fond memories but man those things are hand to use.

Also, it is insane that the competitors are separated by less than a second. In any scientific field this data wouldn't be considered statistically valid I'd bet. They should run the events at least a dozen times each to ensure statistical significance.
posted by GuyZero at 11:18 AM on March 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


In any scientific field this data wouldn't be considered statistically valid I'd bet

On top of that, snow and ice are constantly evolving playing fields. On top of that, its easier to go down a hill when visibility is higher. If we could play sports in a vaccum ...
then the athletes wouldn't be able to breathe. Okay, I'll stop.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:30 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not to be too critical when I come here to praise, but if old media does more stuff like this, there might be hope for the Grey Lady yet.

I've gotta say, I don't know if it's categorized separately or something, but the New York Times has some of the best infographs and interactive data on the internet.
posted by graventy at 11:51 AM on March 1, 2010


The first to cross, obviously.

Actually, the reason I asked that was that it seems pretty obvious that when you get to the end you should stick your foot out. Unless they measure both feet.
posted by DU at 11:51 AM on March 1, 2010


Actually, the reason I asked that was that it seems pretty obvious that when you get to the end you should stick your foot out. Unless they measure both feet.

I liked seeing the speedskaters do this as they approached the finish line. They looked like 18th Century gentlemen making a leg.
posted by not that girl at 11:59 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


For the cross-country skiing at least, the instant, and TV-reported, times come from a tag on the competitors' ankles but the official, and deciding, results are based on toes crossing the line.

It's actually worse than that. The official time comes from a photo beam that is about a foot off the snow, while a photo finish is decided based on the skier's toe crossing the line. So in a mass start competition, the best technique is to point your toe as much as possible at the finish, while in an individual start competition, the best technique is to lunge over the line with your knee and toe in the same plane.

Of course, it is all very silly because results are reported to 1/100 of a second, when there is certainly more variability than 1/100s in the start time recorded by the wand. Not only is the start time a problem, but in an individual start race, two finishers might cross the finish line close enough together that the beam only records one finisher (or the second finisher might arrive at about the same time as the first finisher's trailing leg). It's a mess.
posted by ssg at 12:05 PM on March 1, 2010


What do the Olympic finishing times sound like?
For some reason I thought this was going to be post about Nickelback. Thank God it's not.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:11 PM on March 1, 2010


This is a great way to understand how close these races are. 15 men finished within 1 second of the gold medalist time in the Men's Downhill. That's crazy!

But even then, if they could somehow do the race all at the same time*, the silver medalist coming in .07 seconds behind the leader would be (at 75 mph) 2.3 meters up the hill, a visually obvious distance.

*Like dump each of them into a parallel universe where the hill is identical across them, then bring them back.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:14 PM on March 1, 2010


I'd always hoped that technology would one day "ghost" the image of a bobsled against the current run, and then lo and behold, it happened at these Olympics! It was like racing yourself in Gran Tourismo I.

I really wish they could do that real time for the downhill events. NBC: Make it so.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:31 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


spike etc, they were in fact doing that during the downhill events.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:40 PM on March 1, 2010


Those solitary dots at the far end sound so very sad.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:45 PM on March 1, 2010


Those solitary dots at the far end sound so very sad.

Emergency shipment of condoms headed to Olympic athletes: I'm betting those solitary dots are less sad and a lot less lonely than you might expect.
posted by GuyZero at 1:48 PM on March 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Keep in mind that the sledding events are a combined time of 4 runs. I figure a breakdown of the individual runs would sound something like a drum roll.
posted by cmfletcher at 2:09 PM on March 1, 2010


As a guy who lives a couple of blocks from Robson and Granville, I'm pretty sure I know the answer: hours upon hours of "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" and lots and lots of cowbell. Every day. For 2 weeks. Until 3 am.

Good times, but man I could use a nap.
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:17 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you see a good infographic in the NYT, Amanda Cox was probably involved (via Tufte):
Box office results
Inflation
The stock market
Industrial production

Oil prices
posted by djb at 2:27 PM on March 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


What do the olympic finishing times sound like? Oh, that's easy. They sound like this: "yaaaaaaaaawnnnnnnnnn......".
posted by MajorDundee at 2:42 PM on March 1, 2010


Even though Annette Gerritsen was very pleased with her silver medal on the 1000 meter speed skating, the Dutch media speculated the next day she would have won the race. had she had the last inner line, like the gold medalist had, and not the outer lane.
posted by ijsbrand at 3:00 PM on March 1, 2010


I wondered about the "How do they time this?" just yesterday, when I remembered that Lindsay Vonn uses mens' skis, which are much longer than the womens' skis. So if it is measured like the mens' speed skate (where the first blade across the line counts), than she would have an advantage getting that long ski across first.

But if it is the first body part over the line, that's completely different.

I do know that in the bobsled? You have to be IN the bobsled when you cross the line. Because one of the German women was ejected out and they were disqualified. Ouch.

This link is seriously cool, by the way. I was struck throughout the Olympics by how close some of the competitors were to winning a gold metal and then getting a silver, sometimes just a couple hundredths of a second.
posted by misha at 3:45 PM on March 1, 2010


That is the best thing on the internets today.
posted by unSane at 5:42 PM on March 1, 2010


So if it is measured like the mens' speed skate (where the first blade across the line counts), than she would have an advantage getting that long ski across first.

It's a sensor that is above the ground but below the knees. I don't thin that skis will trip it, unless you do something really unnatural with them.

Also, more fun info:
In case of a fall at the finish, the time can be taken without both of the competitor’s feet having crossed the finish line.

For the registered time to become valid, the competitor must immediately completely cross the finish line with or without skis.
posted by smackfu at 6:04 PM on March 1, 2010


If you follow some of these sports for the entire season it's amazing how consistently the same people win by such a tiny fraction of a second too. You'd think random chance would play a much bigger role with such tiny differences in time than it appears to do.
posted by fshgrl at 9:31 PM on March 1, 2010


NYT really did this right - as they have for big handfulls of these displays of somewhat arcane information.

I also, especially like when they transpose the images of two skiers to show how much slower/faster/sloppier/cleaner one is skiing versus the other.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:52 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


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