Contact plates in swimming
By the nature of its environment, swimming rendered useless any known method of automatic timing. At the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956, semi- automatic timing was introduced. Three electro- mechanical counters were allocated to each swimmer. They were stopped individually by three timers. The place judges' decisions were final and the recorded times could be "adapted" to their subjective vision. The final of the men's 100 metres freestyle at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960 sounded the deathknell of this method. The gap between the times of the first two finishers and the judges' vision was manifestly too great. The judges did not want to give up their prerogative, and the result was one of the last victories of subjectivity over objectivity. The only possible response to make contact plates with a large surface, sensitive to the swimmers' touch but insensitive to waves, watertight, robust and one centimetre thick. Mobile plates were installed by Seiko for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964, but that did not prevent a dispute over third place in the men's 100 metres freestyle final. Dutchman Maus Gastonides, one- time winner of Monte Carlo rally, developed a pneumatic contact plate which was presented t the European championships in Utrecht in 1966. This plate was tested at pre- Olympic competition in Mexico- City that same year. The daily temperature and pressure differences due to altitude limited the performance of a plate, the design of which was nevertheless ingenious.
Omega technicians then constructed an electric pressure plate, insensitive to the atmospheric environment. It was presented and used at the Panamerican Games in Winnipeg in 1967 with a 98% success rate. The swimming regulations were changed and only the swimmer's touch now counted for the final placing. Thank to this touch plate, the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968 were the first in history to be officially automatically timed.