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Nobody Thought Through These Invasive Starting Block Cameras At The IAAF World Championships

Photo: Richard Heathcote (Getty)

Lots of things have not gone well at the IAAF’s World Athletics Championships in Doha. Everyone competing is either spooked by the ghostly silence of almost no spectators in attendance or half-dead of heat exhaustion. Here is one more thing not going well: a bunch of athletes have been criticizing the IAAF for its decision to put cameras inside the starting blocks, where they give TV audiences a terribly awkward between-the-legs view of runners.

Per the IAAF’s press release announcing this “trailblazing technology,” the new cameras were meant to provide “innovative angles on the competition and behind-the-scenes pictures that have never been shown to the audience before.” Not surprisingly, nobody wanted innovative angles on the competition, least of all the people in the competition, who would rather their own innovative angles and behind-the-scenes pictures remain not shown to the audience, thank you very much.

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The vast majority of experimental camera angles on live sporting events suck—just show me the dang game!—but it takes a special sort of obliviousness to arrive at this one. Several athletes who pointed out the problem were baffled that no one had pointed it out sooner. “I as a woman find that quite stupid,” said German sprinter Gina Lückenkemper in a statement. “And I have said I would doubt that a woman was part of the development of that.”

Per the AP, the IAAF has adjusted the camera angles and rolled back their use after the German Athletics Federation complained:

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 technology push to attract new viewers. They’ve also introduced pre-race dimming of the lights and graphics being projected on the track

“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.

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And to provide athletes an extra layer of privacy, the IAAF has ensured that no one else will even be in the stadium:

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