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Getting ready for the World: A matter of timing

For most people, the 2003 World Cycling Championships being held up and down the Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton, Ontario will begin October 6. For me, they began February 7 in Montreal when I loaded a few necessities in a U-Haul trailer and my big dog in my old truck and drove up the 401, the Trans-Canada Highway, as hundreds of thousands of other Quebec Anglophones have done, to join the Hamilton 2003, the Organizing Committee (OC) for the Worlds as the Competition Coordinator. What will follow in this space for the next few months will be a blog-typecolumn (web log) of how one goes about

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By Ed Arzouian, Competition Coordinator, Hamilton 2003

Tick, tick, tick, tick...

Tick, tick, tick, tick…

Photo: Swiss Timing Tissot

For most people, the 2003 World Cycling Championships being held up and down the Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton, Ontario will begin October 6. For me, they began February 7 in Montreal when I loaded a few necessities in a U-Haul trailer and my big dog in my old truck and drove up the 401, the Trans-Canada Highway, as hundreds of thousands of other Quebec Anglophones have done, to join the Hamilton 2003, the Organizing Committee (OC) for the Worlds as the Competition Coordinator.

What will follow in this space for the next few months will be a blog-typecolumn (web log) of how one goes about pulling together everything intoplace for this weekend-long extravaganza which unites the world’s bestriders and hordes of their die-hard fanatics.

We would like to think that this technical look into the organizationof a big event like this might serve as a blueprint or “how-to-manual”for other would-be road race organizers and clubs. Also, if it generatessuggestions, comments and ideas on how to do things better, we would welcomethe input. Should you have goods and services that you believe would benefitour organization and the quality of the upcoming world championships, we will welcome those as well. Some of the information offered here will also be available of the www.Hamilton2003.com web site.

Hitting the ground running
Though scheduled to begin work on Monday, Feb. 10 my first task was actually on Sunday Feb. 9 at the Hamilton Sheraton on King Street, the Official Race headquarters a block away and parallel to the Start/Finish area of the circuit on Main Street. I met with a representative of Swiss Timing/Tissot, the Official UCI timing provider for the Worlds and partof the Swatch group.

Interestingly, because the rep was arriving from L.A. where he met withorganizers of a gymnastics meet, I learned that Swiss Timing/Tissot workswith numerous sports one wouldn’t necessarily associate them with. Therep’s next stop, for example, was a fencing tournament in Cuba, where it was probably at least a touch warmer than Hamilton’s -18C that morning.

The 'nerve center'

The ‘nerve center’

Photo: Swiss Timing Tissot

Swiss Timing in Europe attends events with a very big and technologyimpressive trailer full of computers and decked out in Tissot watch coloursand logos. Here in Hamilton the Swiss Timing equipment arrived via air freight and the trailer, which requires windows all around half of it and numerous electrical outlets, has to be built for about $7000CDN ($5000US).

Apart from the obvious results and timing associated with races, SwissTiming provides real-time feeds for timing and graphics to TV broadcasters.This requires them to have a complex tangle of wiring and cable which hasto run a few hundred feet to the parking area reserved for satellite TVtrucks.

Another, newer, feature incorporated into Swiss Timing results are transponders on every bike in every event. In most cases, assuming riders finish with same bicycle they started, their finishing position is digitally recorded, almost eliminating human error but not completely so judges and photo-finishing are still used as redundant systems (here’s a painful example of a photo finish).

As one would expect, most of the software and even some of the hardwareis proprietary: Swiss Timing developed it, built it and owns it.

An added perk of the Swiss Timing job is its location on the course.The timing crew has the very best seat in the house. Their 10 foot by 30 foot trailer sits literally right on the finish line and actually forms the road barrier along that area.

Realistically, this service is probably too expensive for all but thebiggest events but some of the technology is available to the general public and not all that expensive. For instance, as some triathletes and organizers may already know, transponders cost only about $4 or $5 each, the hardware and software to capture their signals runs in the $10,000 to $20,000 range, pricey but a reasonable investment for serious organizers doing numerous events.

Next week grandstands and seats: how we got ’em and where they are…

Ed Arzouian directed the Montreal Women’s World Cup in 1999, managedthe Shaklee Men’s Road team in 1997, co-owned and managed the Montreal-basedEvian team from 1988 to 1993, all the while writing for numerous publicationsabout cycling, including VeloNews. His own racing career ran from 1973to 1988. He attended three U.S. Olympic Development Team camps in ColoradoSprings (‘85-’87), won numerous Quebec Provincial Championships and a bronzemedal in the TTT Canadian Nationals in 1986.  More of his writingis available at www.arzouian.com.
 

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