Seiko Group Corporation Corporate Branding Department
Yohei Aizawa｜Wishing to convey the joy of sports and the importance of time by continually improving the accuracy and technology of timekeeping and measurement.
Seiko Group Corporation is the official timer of the World Championships in Athletics.
We interviewed Aizawa-san of the company, who has experience in “timekeeping and measurement,” which requires accuracy behind the scenes of the big event.
Partnership has been in place for 38 years and official timer for 18 consecutive events.
―You are the “Official Timer” of the World Championships in Athletics (hereinafter referred to as the World Championships in Athletics), when did that start?
Aizawa: We concluded a sponsorship contract with the World Athletics (WA) in 1985, and have continued to sponsor the event for 38 years. This year’s event marks the 18th consecutive time that we have served as the official timer, which measures the records of competitors and determines their rankings, since the second edition in Rome. Incidentally, we were the first official sponsor for Japan at the Budapest 2023 World Championships held this year.
―What specific activities will you be involved in as an official timer at the World Championships in Athletics?
Aizawa: Seiko’s role as an official timer is to accurately “time and measure” the times and records of all athletes and communicate them to spectators in an easy-to-understand manner. I believe that our role is to support the event through accurate and error-free timing and measurement.
We also hold the “Seiko Wakuwaku Sports Classroom”. This is a project that is held several times a year in Japan, but when the World Championships in Athletics is held, we also hold a special version of this event on site under the name “Time to Shine” (*1). We ask our athletes called “TEAM SEIKO” (*2) to serve as instructors and give lectures on warming up and practical skills to the local children who participate in the class. After that, the children will run the 100m race, and our equipment used in the World Championships in Athletics will be used to measure their times.The children are very happy to see the performance as if it were the real thing.
1 Time to Shine:
An event held by Seiko to support the next generation of athletes and promote athletics. Athletics classes are held at the same venue and equipment as the World Championships in Athletics for boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 12 who are committed to local track and field competitions.
2 TEAM SEIKO:
A team of athletes who bring excitement to people through sports and embody one of Seiko’s Group Purposes: “Creating a future where the world is filled with smiles.
―What is the reason for your long support as the official timer of the World Championships in Athletics?
Aizawa: I think it is because we have built a continuous relationship with them through our 38 years of error-free measurement and timing, as well as by providing equipment that matches the times. “One of the things we are proud of.” I think it is. Reliability is important in a job that requires a high level of precision.
Track and field is an athletic event in which the order of finish is contested, and in the case of track events, if the records of the athletes are the same to the nearest 1/100th of a second, then measurements are taken to the nearest 1/1,000th of a second.That 1/1000th of a second is the deciding factor. Our philosophy is to pursue such high precision and continue to refine our technology, which has been our goal since the company’s establishment. We are a watch company, but we also have an affinity with athletics, swimming, and other measuring sports, which has allowed us to continue to sponsor such events as the World Championships in Athletics and the Tokyo Marathon, and we will continue to support various competitions and sports in the future. I believe it is our unchanging belief that we will continue to support various events and competitions.
The air in the hall shook like an earthquake at Usain Bolt’s new world record!？
―What was the episode that left a strong impression on you as an official timer of the World Championships in Athletics?
Aizawa: It was when Usain Bolt set a new world record at the 2009 Berlin Games. At the time, I was working as a member of the Sports Timing Department’s team (hereinafter referred to as “Timing Team”), and I was at the start of the men’s 200m final on the track, operating equipment and taking care of the technical aspects. When Bolt finished running and the timer read 19.19 seconds, it was as if an earthquake had really hit the venue.I was thrilled! That moment is a feeling you only get when a new world record is set. That unique atmosphere…it really shakes the air in the hall~ (laughs). I think it was because everyone stood up and cheered at the same time, and it felt like everyone in the audience, regardless of country, was happy about the new world record. I will treasure that experience for the rest of my life.
―On the contrary, do you have any “Niyari” memories?
Aizawa: After serving as an official timer for 18 times, I have had my share of near-misses… (wry smile). No matter how well prepared you are, there are no absolutes in measuring equipment, just as there are with ordinary machines. Even if there are no problems in the operation test of the equipment just before the event, the equipment may not work properly at the start of the event. Because of this, we always have a double or triple backup system in place for the event, so that even if the main measurement system should fail, the event can be run without problems.
It may be a once-in-a-lifetime race for the athlete, and the same performance may not be possible. We are further improving the equipment, including backups, so that they will not have to race or try out one more time.
These system improvements and equipment preparations are knowledge and pride that we have developed through our long involvement in the competition as a sponsor.
Behind the scenes of athletes’ success Behind the scenes of athletes’ successes, the staff in charge of timing and measurement undergo a tense and disciplined routine.
―What kind of activities did you do in Budapest in August?
Aizawa: The Oregon Games in 2022 was postponed for one year due to the Corona disaster, and the same thing happened at the Oregon Games in 2022. We are making a documentary movie by closely covering the activities of the timing team, which is in charge of measurement work behind the scenes at the World Championships in Athletics. I participated in the filming as a member of the team.
We started by setting up the site, setting up the equipment, checking its operation, improving the accuracy of the equipment’s measurements, and building the entire timing system. If something did not work, we tried again and again. We pursue precision to the utmost limit, clearing even the most minute details, such as the balance and angle of the light hitting the equipment. Since dozens of measurements will be taken in the actual production, we must always be precise and avoid even the slightest mistake. In order to eliminate this anxiety, we pursue perfect accuracy without compromise, and then the day of the competition arrives…. We have been on site for nearly two weeks covering and photographing such scenes.
Looking back on such a process, timing teams may resemble athletes in a sense. They train for the timing and measurement work until the event, and then give 100% performance (timing and measurement) toward the event,despite setbacks. I truly believe that preparation is all part of the job.
【Documentary of SEIKO TIMING TEAM】 A documentary movie highlighting the passion of the “SEIKO Timing Team” for the success of the Oregon 2022 World Championships in Athletics, who usually work behind the scenes to support the timing of the event.
The Budapest 2023 edition will be released at a later date.
―What made you decide to join the company, Aizawa-san?
Aizawa: I started running track and field in junior high school, and when I was in college, I participated in a competition in the 400m hurdles, where I ended up on the podium. At that time, the official timing equipment for the event that caught my eye was a SEIKO. That scene was burned into my mind’s eye, and since I had continued to run track and field until college, I thought, “I want to work in a sports-related company,” and the scene of my personal best podium finish naturally came to mind. I guess I could say that SEIKO was there at that special moment for me. I tried very hard to tell that story during the job interview (laughs).
―What are the duties of the Corporate Branding Department to which you are currently assigned?
Aizawa: There are three main things we do here.
The first is sponsorship of sporting events. By sponsoring various sporting events, we make effective use of the various marketing rights we receive, such as TV commercials and billboards, to enhance the value of the company. In addition, for events where we serve as the official timer, as in the World Championships in Athletics, we work with the timing team to coordinate the provision of timing and measurement equipment and services that are indispensable for the event operation.
Second is the support of “TEAM SEIKO.The members include Chisato Fukushima, the Japanese record holder in the women’s 100m and 200m track and field events, now retired and working as a “SEIKO Smile Ambassador,” Ryota Yamagata (Japanese record holder in the men’s 100m), Day Bruno, Sakai, Yui Ohashi, and Shoma Sato, all track and field athletes, The team is composed of seven athletes, including trampolinist Ginga , who will provide support to athletes and coordinate and care for them when they participate in events such as sports classes.
The third is next-generation education. We are involved in organizing and running the “Seiko Waku Waku Sports Class,” in which TEAM SEIKO athletes serve as instructors for children who will lead the future. We want children to experience the fun and joy of sports through the experience of interacting with athletes and actually running with the measuring equipment used in competitions. It makes me very happy when I see the smiles on the faces of children who have achieved wonderful records using the measuring equipment we provide. Children’s smiles are so pure.
Being able to work closely with those smiling faces through sports is the appeal of our company and the rewarding aspect of working in this department. In that sense, I can say that I have realized one of my future goals!
―What are your goals as a sponsor for the Tokyo 2025 World Championships in Athletics to be held in 2025?
Aizawa: We want more people to enjoy the World Championships in Athletics and hope to propose new ways to enjoy the event. By measuring the performance data of athletes competing, we want to convey the fun of track and field events from a different aspect.For example, in the triple jump, data on the distance, height, and speed of each of the three jumps can be used in other events as well. As a provider of equipment, I hope that we, as a sponsor, can help in this way.
For athletes as well, I think there is a possibility that it will lead to improved performance in competition. Of course, we need to carefully work out the details with the people involved, but I hope that performance data from various perspectives, not just data on the athlete’s final landing point, will be used not only at the World Championships in Athletics but also at many other competitions. I hope that we can create such a system.
―A message from Aizawa-san for the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25.
Aizawa: I think it is difficult to understand the fun of a sport unless you try it yourself. That is why I hope that there will be a place where anyone can participate,men and women of all ages.If there is such an opportunity, people may be able to experience our latest measurement equipment, and people may say, “Let’s watch it on TV or on video,” or “I want to do track and field. After all, it is important to give people an experience. Some people start track and field as adults and achieve good records. My local athletic meets are as exciting as the World Championships in Athletics (laughs).
―What made you happy recently?
Aizawa: I resumed 400m hurdles, which I used to do when I was in college, for the first time in 18 years. I met someone who had started after becoming a member of society, and as I gave him advice on how to practice, he started thinking that maybe I should give it a try, too.
Then the other day, I saw Deaflympic athlete Takada in the same group at the track meet I had entered. Takada was very fast. I lost miserably (laugh). After the race, I wondered if Mr. Takada was filming the race, so I gathered up my courage and asked him if he was filming the race, and he sent it to me right away. He was very nice!
I am now running 3 times a week. For good food and beer! (Laughs)
Yohei Aizawa / Born in Chiba, Japan
Corporate Branding Department, Seiko Group Corporation (Joined the company in 2006)
Yohei Aizawa has been a track and field athlete throughout his school years, from junior high school through high school and university, specializing in the 400m hurdles. He was fascinated by the fun of track and field, where the harder you work, the more your record improves, and spent his days practicing day after day.After 10 years, he was transferred to the Real Estate Management Department, where he was involved in the maintenance and management of the company’s real estate holdings, facility investment planning, tenant relations, real estate support for group companies, and the selection and contracting of properties for new store openings. He then moved to the Corporate Branding Department, where he spends his days focusing on brand communication through digital marketing.His hobby is sports, and he has recently resumed practicing the 400m hurdles. On his days off, he enjoys playing sports at the park with his son and watching games on TV with his daughter, who is into Major League Baseball. He is also challenging Masters Track and Field with his local friends and dad friends.