Skip to main content

Timing the Special Olympics World Games: An Inside Look

About the 2015 Special Olympics World Games

SOWG Finished Results Display

Every two years, the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world is held, giving athletes with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to showcase their talents globally. Los Angeles, CA was the home to the most recent games held July 25 – August 2, 2015, hosting the largest event the city has seen since the 1984 Olympic Games.

Actors, Olympic athletes, musicians, and even the Princess of Monaco attended to show support for the games by performing at the Opening Ceremonies and presenting medals to athletes. Below is a glimpse at the size of this event:

  • 25 Olympic-type sports
  • 165 countries
  • 2,000 coaches
  • 6,500 athletes
  • 30,000 volunteers
  • 500,000 anticipated spectators

Moving Towards Unified Acceptance

The Special Olympics strives to change the perceptions of people with intellectual disabilities and create a worldwide discussion to move towards a unified acceptance. One particular segment was developed this past year under the theme #WhatsOneThing in which participants were interviewed and asked what’s one thing they were told they’d never be able to do growing up. Many of the athletes have been repeatedly told they can’t, it’s impossible, it’ll never happen, etc. Thanks to the Special Olympics, these athletes gain self-confidence by competing, plus they’re able to inspire the spectators by achieving their dreams while showing the highest levels of sportsmanship.

LED Displays at the SOWG Kayak races
Timing kayak events at the Special Olympics World Games in California

FinishLynx At the World Games

Finished Results was chosen to time the 2015 World Games after showcasing their elite-level timing at the Special Olympics Trials in 2014.  To many, the thought of timing such a large event may seem daunting. But with strategic planning (plus an arsenal of backup cameras), the timers were able to pull it off with ease.

In total, the team timed the following seven events:

  • Athletics
  • Cycling (road and time-trial)
  • Half Marathon
  • Kayaking
  • Open Water Swimming
  • Roller Skating
  • Triathlon

Preparing for the Big Event

What exactly goes into timing an event like this? The first step is planning.

“Taking on the project as a whole could be a very intimidating task. By putting a lead timer in charge of each venue, and with the additional help from Royal Results, we were able to divide the work into much smaller and more manageable projects.”

Chris Drescher, Finished Results

Logistics and Venues

Finished Results Timing Tent
A Peek Inside the Timing Tent

In total, Finished Results had a group of seven Lynx operators plus 10-15 helpers who assisted with meet management, athletes, start assistants, etc. For equipment, they used two photo-finish cameras for each event (one primary plus a backup), IdentiLynx PROs, LED displays, FieldLynx, ResulTV for live results, IPICO multi-sport tags, and shared data with the Special Olympics proprietary scoring software.

The Finished Results team originally needed seven trailers to get all the equipment down to the venue. They were told they could bring just one, but they were able to negotiate up to three. Somehow they maneuvered all their equipment to make it fit into the three trailers.

Once down at the Games, the sheer scale of the event created some logistical issues to overcome which included a lot of: drive to one venue → drop off equipment → drive to the next venue → drop off equipment → go park off site, all the while trying to unload without being in a fire lane. Below is a list of each event and venue stretched across the 7-day period.

7/25/2015 Athletics USC Campus
7/26/2015 Triathlon Long Beach
7/26/2015 Roller Skating LA Convention Center
7/26/2015 Open Water Swimming Alamitos Beach
7/27/2015 Cycling Shoreline Drive, Long Beach
7/28/2015 Kayaking Marine Stadium, Long Beach
8/1/2015 Half Marathon Long Beach

“Most events we time, there is one meet director that we are in communication with for everything that is needed.  But events on a large scale such as the Special Olympics World Games have many layers of management.  Add in the fact that we were timing not only Track & Field, but 6 other events at 4 other venues; we now have multiple people we are working with.  The important thing to remember is that we are all trying to accomplish the same goal, which is making the event a tremendous success.”

Chris Drescher, Finished Results

Adjusting for Different Sports and Events

FinishLynx Cameras for Kayaking
FinishLynx Cameras for Kayaking

For the SOWG, Finished Results had to carefully tailor their timing setups depending on the size, venue, or speed or the events. For example, they quickly discovered that a different lens was needed for timing the kayak races because the cameras were set up much farther away from the finish line.

For cycling, most would assume that RFID transponders would be the primary timing device. But instead, they opted to use FinishLynx cameras in Time Trial mode with IdentiLynx video for the results.

One other wrinkle was the character encoding for results and scoreboards. The events had athletes from all over the world, meaning that a variety of languages and characters would need to be supported for posting results in real time. The team quickly made adjustments behind the scenes to produce a seamless experience for athletes, fans, and officials.

LED Displays Add Wow-Factor

Finished Results owns dozens of LED display boards, many of which were used at the Special Olympics Trials in 2014 and the World Games in 2015. The combination of LEDs, ResulTV software, and FieldLynx allowed them to create a wow-factor with live scoring and results. The sheer number of displays used reinforces how essential scoreboards have become in the sports timing world. The team used a jumbotron, seven finish line displays, and up to 24 2-panel LEDs for results, ads, and event signage.

Finished Results Displays
Just a few of the Finished Results Displays

Overcoming Challenges and Gaining Insights

One obstacle they faced was that a large event like the SOWG has every detail planned out in advance. When there are so many athletes, spectators, and stakeholders, running a tight ship is essential to the success and security of events. But that also means the timing crew wasn’t able to enjoy the same autonomy provided by smaller races. Tent locations, event parking, visitor passes, lunch breaks, and event schedules left little room for error or adjustments. But after all was said and done, the Finished Results team was able to take away some great insights for timers looking to scale up their events:

  1. Surround yourself with good people and befriend others at the event
  2. Learn as much as you possibly can about the technology you’re using
  3. Remember that timing is a service industry. You’re the expert and need to remain calm to help them through various situations.
  4. Be adaptable to various situations and try to anticipate the problem before it happens.
  5. Treat each meet with the same level of quality and service no matter the size.

“Our experience as a whole was amazing and humbling. Amazing in how many volunteers gave up countless hours of their time in support of the games. Humbling in seeing how much these athletes overcome on a daily basis. The courage and strength transcends through all sports.”

– Chris Drescher, Finished Results

Special Olympics Track
Track and field finish line at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games

We’d like to thank Chris Drescher, Brian Sparacino, and Alex Lohman of Finished Results in Menifee, CA for taking the time to answer our questions and provide an inside look at timing this major event. Read more about the 2015 Special Olympics World Games here.

Want to learn more about how a FinishLynx system can help your event? Visit our fully automatic timing packages for more information.

Lynx Timing and Photo Finish Seminar in Mexico

Classroom at FinishLynx Seminar
Classroom Learning

In early December 2013, Lynx System Developers, Inc. collaborated with the International Association of Athletic Federations [I.A.A.F.] and the Federación Mexicana de Asociaciones de Atletismo [F.M.A.A.] at a Digital Photo Finish and Timing seminar in Mexico City.

The three day seminar ran over three days and the timetable included:

  • A full day of FinishLynx system explanation, and classroom training
  • A ½ day of practical training at the Centro Deportivo Olimpico Mexicano
  • A further ½ day of advanced system configuration and operation
  • An athletics competion at the Centro Deportivo Olimpico Mexicano that was 100% timed by the participants.

Lynx provided two instructors, one Spanish speaking, and one from the Lynx Headquarters in the USAto present the information at the seminar. The FMAA organized the seminar, arranged accomodation for the instructors and the participants, and secured the cooperation of the Centro Deportivo Olimpico Mexicano in the project. The 24 particpants came from all parts of Mexico for the seminar.

FinishLynx Cameras
Participants brought their cameras to learn how to get the maximum from them


Allyson Felix Sprints to 150m World Record at the Great City Games

Manchester, England – On Saturday, May 25th, Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix won the 150m sprint at the Great City Games. Her time of  16.36 also set a new world record for the event. The competitors ran the 150m event on a straight track surface laid down on Deansgate, a major road in Manchester’s city centre.

Felix has admitted that she loves running outside the typical stadium environment. Her world record performance at the Great City Games on Saturday will only further reinforce that preference. While there had been some headwinds at the outdoor venue throughout the day, Felix’s 16.36 WR was recorded with a small tailwind of (+0.2 m/s). (more…)

On the Beach with Usain Bolt in Brazil

The Confederação Brasileira de Atletismo Times Usain Bolt on Copacabana Beach.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – On Sunday March 31, the timing team affiliated with the Confederação Brasileira de Atletismo went to the famous Copacabana beach for a unique event. With an EtherLynx PRO as the primary timing camera, an EtherLynx Fusion for reverse angle images, ReacTime (mounted without the speaker units as audio was sent through the Public Address system), a Lynx electronic starting system, and multiple Microgate photocells, this event may have been taking place on a beach famous for its parties, but the technology in use was definitely serious. (more…)

Nordic Skiing Marathon Birkebeinerrennet integrates FinishLynx results

Birkebeinerrennet Nordic Skiing FinishLynx Image
Birkebeinerrennet Lynx Image

Lillehammer, Norway– Birkebeinerrennet, the famous cross country skiing marathon in Norway, has integrated FinishLynx photo finish technology into the event’s sophisticated results system. The annual event is one of the oldest and most challenging races in the Worldloppet Federation. The 2013 event was held on March 13th and featured 16,500 of the world’s finest Nordic skiers. The Birkebeinerrennet course begins in Rena, Norway and continues 65 grueling kilometers (40.38 miles) to Lillehammer. (more…)

Record-Setting Results at the 2013 US Indoor Track & Field Championships

Jenn Suhr new World Record
Jenn Suhr poses after setting a new pole vault WR

Albuquerque, NM – It was a record-setting weekend in Albuquerque as the nation’s finest track & field athletes competed in the 2013 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships from March 1 – 3, 2013. FinishLynx service provider Flash Results was on-site to provide fully automatic timing and results for the USATF event. The three-day meet was packed with great finishes, but it was record-breaking performances from Jenn Suhr, Mary Cain, Will Lear, and Ryan Whiting  that stole the show.

World Record and a World Leader

Jenn Suhr set a new world record in the Pole Vault, and Ryan Whiting set a world’s best mark of the year in the Shot Put this weekend in Albuquerque. Suhr picked up her ninth American record and set the new women’s pole vault world record when she cleared 5.02m. Suhr’s successful 5.02m leap broke the previous world record of 5.01m set by Russian Yelena Isinbayeva in 2012. Suhr also became only the second woman in history to clear the 5-meter mark in a pole vault competition.

Shot-putter Ryan Whiting improved on his own world leading mark this past weekend. Whiting tossed 21.80m and edged out runner-up Cory Martin by 0.87m.

Record-Setting Indoor Milers

Will Leer and Mary Cain took home first-place finishes in the men’s and women’s miles this past weekend. Nike’s Will Leer ran the fastest ever indoor mile recorded “at-altitude,” finishing at 3:58.79. Leer beat New Balance’s Craig Miller by just 0.11, thanks a very strong final kick.

In the women’s mile, high school wunderkind Mary Cain took home the US Indoor Championship with a time of 5:05.68. The 16-year-old athlete has been on a hot streak all season. Cain is the first high school athlete to win an indoor title since Allyson Felix did it on 2003. Felix went on the win Olympic Gold later in her career. There is no doubt that Mary Cain has a promising career ahead.

World-Class FinishLynx Results

US Indoor Championships Results
TV Commentators Ato Boldon & Dan O’Brien view FinishLynx results at the 2013 Indoor Championships

It was the seasoned timing team from Flash Results that produced the track and field results at the US Indoor Championships. Given the scale of the event, Flash Results spared no expense creating its FinishLynx configuration for the meet. The setup included:

Flash also used ResulTV to send results and photo-finish images directly to the television broadcast team. It’s an amazing thing to see all the moving pieces of a complex results network function smoothly behind the scenes. Congrats to everyone involved in another successful USA Indoor Championship meet.

Lynx Technology at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Brasov

February 17 – 22, 2013: The Short Track Speed Skating competition at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Brasov Romania featured FinishLynx Timing and Results production.

1000 m Ladies FINAL
1000 m Ladies FINAL : With only 2/1,000th second between 1st and 2nd place it is always nice to have FinishLynx photo finish to make the call.

Logo of European Youth Olympic Winter Festival

This marks a continuation of the long-standing endorsement and utilization of Lynx technology by ISU sanctioned events. The  Winter European Youth Olympic Festival represents the top events for approximately 1,300 young athletes between the ages of 14 and 18. The competition is organised in two-year cycles, always in odd years, and is sponsored by the Association of European Olympic Committees (EOC). (more…)

FinishLynx technology at the 2013 IAAF Winter Permit Meeting in Moscow


Russian Athletics Russian Winter Permit Meeting

Ever since Lynx partnered with the ARAF in July 2012, our Russian partners from Elastomer have been hard at work training with FinishLynx technology at events across the country. Well now we’re proud to announce that Elastomer has successfully completed its first large-scale IAAF athletics competition. The Russian crew provided timing and results for the 2013 IAAF Winter Permit Meeting this past weekend in Moscow, Russia. (more…)

New Balance Indoor Games 2013

New Balance Indoor Games 2013

Mary Cain - 16 years old New American Record in 2 mile Mary Cain – 16 years old sets a New American High School Record in 2 mile

FinishLynx technology provided timing and results for the New Balance Indoor meet on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. The IAAF permit meet saw 16 year old Mary Cain run 9:38.68 for 2 miles – a performance that is the single best mark in US HS girl’s distance history. Cain broke the existing record (held by Melody Fairchild for over 20 years) by more than 17 seconds. (more…)