IAAF roll back ‘crotch cams’ on blocks after athlete complaints

Some competitors say camera angles on running track starting blocks are intrusive

Two miniature cameras are build inside a starting block at the 100m start line at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha. Photo: Diego Azubel/EPA

Two miniature cameras are build inside a starting block at the 100m start line at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha. Photo: Diego Azubel/EPA

 

With cameras in the starting blocks peering up the legs of athletes into their eyes, television viewers have been taken closer to the action than ever before at the world championships – and it is a little too close for some athletes.

“I’m not too keen about it because it’s kind of invading my private space in a sense,” said South Africa’s Akani Simbine, who finished fourth in the men’s 100m final. “Being in the blocks is one of the athlete’s sacred spaces and that’s the point where you just want to be alone and be free. You have a camera in your face and you don’t really want to have a camera in your face.”

Justin Gatlin, who won silver in the 100m, made his own preparations for the camera angle. “I made sure I had my lucky underwear on,” said the American.

For others, the perceived invasion of privacy was not a laughing matter. The backlash against the intrusive angles started as soon as athletes received images from the “crotch cams”.

“My friends told me the pictures weren’t very flattering,” said Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, who made history on Wednesday when she won gold in the 200m.

An official complaint came from the German track and field federation. It led to the competition organizers rolling back the use of the cameras that were introduced in Doha as part of a push to attract new viewers. They’ve also introduced pre-race dimming of the lights and graphics being projected on the track, updates that have received a mixed reaction.

“We have noted some specific feedback about the block cameras and we have confirmed we have appropriate measures in place to protect athlete privacy during the process of selecting images for broadcast,” the IAAF said in a statement. “We also have strict editorial guidelines for what is broadcast and these have been observed since the beginning of the championships.”

The IAAF installed the two miniature cameras in the starting blocks to capture what it called the “explosion of energy” from athletes who were only previously seen from above or the side of their heads. Not all competitors objected to the unfamiliar angles.

“It’s pretty cool for the fan base they get to see us in the blocks,” said Canada’s Andre De Grasse, who won bronze in the 100m. “But you can’t get distracted by it. You’ve just got to focus on your race and not look too much toward the camera.”

The British sprinter Zharnel Hughes welcomed the IAAF innovating but not the execution of the technology.

“Sometimes you hear the camera inside the blocks,” he said. “It’s a cool feature but it’s a bit scary at the same time because it’s looking up your nose. You aren’t looking at it. You know it’s there because when you are set on your blocks you hear it.” – Guardian

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