Have you ever watched a running race and thought, “gee whiz, watching this from a distance is ok, but I’d love to get a close up shot of what’s happening between the athletes’ legs?” If the answer is no, that’s because you’re both a regular person and not involved in broadcasting the Athletics World Championships currently happening in Doha, Qatar.
The championships are happening through until this Sunday, and are full of some pretty amazing athletes doing pretty amazing things. The people running the competition wanted to come up with some new and innovative camera angles in order to *sports announcer voice* get you closer to the action, and so the Block Cam was born. The Block Cam is a camera mounted in the starting blocks for the sprint events, and points upwards so that we can see the faces of the athletes before they take off running.
It would be a great plan if their faces were the only thing we saw, but the fact that the Block Cam has been universally nicknamed the Crotch Cam tells you exactly how well that worked out.
While American sprinter Justin Gatlin joked about making sure he had his lucky underwear on, the situation wasn’t quite as funny for a lot of others. South African sprinter Akani Simbine, who finished forth in the 100m final, said:
“I’m not too keen about it because it’s kind of invading my private space in a sense. 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.”
Apparently the Crotch Cams make a whirring sound too, according to British sprinter Zharnel Hughes:
“Sometimes you hear camera inside the blocks. You know it’s there because when you are set on your blocks you hear it.”
The cameras were only brought in a week ago, and are already being restricted due to complaints. German sprinters Gina Lückenkemper and Tatjana Pinto called the cameras “very questionable” and pointed out that they hadn’t been asked if they were ok with close up images shot between their legs being broadcast. The answer, shockingly, is that they weren’t ok with it. The IAAF, who run the World Championships, had to agree that they’d only show shots of the athletes’ faces from the cameras and nothing more.
One of the most common things we hear from athletes across all sports is about how they need to focus, focus, focus. In races where milliseconds can matter, you don’t need a camera buzzing away while you know that it’s broadcasting an incredibly unflattering angle of your face, or worse. For a lot of the competitors, training for events like this is their full-time job. The stadiums may be an incredibly different sort of workspace than you or I are used to, but they should be treated as a work place none the less.
Somehow, I don’t get the feeling that these Crotch Cams will be the next big thing in the sports world. Iconic moments like watching Cathy Freeman win the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, or watching Usain Bolt break his own world record in the 100m sprint were not less exciting because we could only see the sides of their heads. Races at the World Championship level are exciting because we’re watching the best of the best compete, not because we’re watching them through an “innovative” camera angle that makes everybody uncomfortable.