Your help please - sources re Olympic judging and scoring technology/

I’m trying to find good online sources which explain how the various events are judged, and/or explain the technology which enables results to be measured down to fractions of a second, or of a centimentre, so quickly.

Re judging - so I watch two of those amazing, incredible gymnasts do things that it seems no human body should be able to do. One gets 9.65 and the other gets 9.05… why? What are the judges looking for, or subtracting points for? And there are similar examples in other judged sports, too.

Re the technology Here are just a few of the things that are never explained on TV:

  • how do they measure swimming results to one hundredth of a second? How do they know A touched the wall before B?

  • in a swimming relay, what’s the rule about when the second team member can dive in? If the first guy has to touch the wall first, then (a) how does the second team member know whether he’s touched it or not, and (b) how do the judges know if the rules have been satisfied or not?

  • guy throws javelin and within seconds they show the distance to within a centimetre. How? I know it seems to involve some judge jabbing a stick in the ground that maybe they bounce a laser off, but I’d like the details.

  • long jump… they seem to know the exact distance within a few seconds. How? Unlike the javelin, I don’t see anyone sticking any measuring stick in the sand.

I feel sure there must be good online sources for all this stuff, but I just can’t seem to find it.


I swam competitively in high school, and even at that level, we had touch pads installed at the end of the lanes. We were taught to stretch, reach and hit the touch pad as hard as possible to ensure that the pad registered. Even our high school systems from the mid-1980s measured to a hundredth of a second.

In relays, IIRC, I believe the rule is that a swimmer’s feet cannot leave the block before the previous swimmer’s hand hits the touch pad. The swimmer on the block never sees the previous swimmer hit the pad, though. He starts his jump usually when the previous swimmer passes some predetermined point in his field of vision, and he presumes that the previous swimmer is not going to suddenly stop swimming past this point. This point is figured out in practice starts. Violations are called by line judges.

Jumps and throwing events can be measured within 4 seconds, apparently.

For gymnastics, there are certain manditory deductions (for stepping out of the line in the floor exercise fir example). For vault, there is a starting svore based on the difficulty (vault X may start at 9.8 where an easier vault starts at 9.7)


In case it wasn’t clear in my previous post, the electronic touch pads in competitive swimming are connected to a central scoring computer that keeps track of the times (and splits) for each lane.

There are start scores based on difficulty on all apparatus. I’ve got to go to work now, (coaching!) but I will be back later, and can explain intricacies of gymnastics scoring.

Exactly. In fact, if swimmers wait until they actually see their teammate touch the wall, their team would lose precious seconds in the transition.