Admittedly, I am not much of a sports fan. Whenever there’s a sporting event on TV you will always find me in the back of the room watching the clock and hoping that the time will soon come to change the channel. When it comes to swimming however, my thoughts differ. I will spend hours in front of the TV watching every single race.
The Olympics as a result is no exception. Last week was pretty much a blur for me, I spent every morning from 11.03 am glued to my TV screen watching every swimming event.I celebrated with the victors and felt the pain of the defeated. Basically, I was hooked. I think its safe to say however, that I was not alone in this, all over the world people were tuned in whether to cheer on their country or watch the legendary Michael Phelps swim in his last Olympics.
When it comes to sports and its elite athletes, the term surveillance doesn’t often come to mind. When you really think about it though, surveillance is quite prominent in sport. The most obvious way of course, is through the fandom.
“Sports organizations now benefit from labour provided by fans who post information on the internet and their public interactions with, and observances of, professional athletes”(Sanderson, 2009, p. 241).
Sports fans spend time documenting and capturing images of athletes and sporting events, the growth of the Internet and Social Media now means that fans can easily share these thoughts and images. What fans don’t realise is that they are essentially acting as sports journalists and as a result publications are able to capitalise on this for minimum cost.
Although this form of surveillance can be seen as an invasion of privacy, it can still be considered relatively harmless when comparing it with other forms of surveillance that elite athletes come face to face with. While watching the swimming I noticed during the post race interviews (yes, I watch those too) that a common statement by athletes was “I’ll go back and watch my race to see where I can improve”. Advancements in technology today means that practice sessions and even races are recorded for athletes and coaches to go back and study over and over again.
An article that was published on the conversation argues that even though this type of surveillance is used to help improve the athletes technique, it can also end up being quite harmful to the athlete. Although this article uses the example of team sports, I believe the same can be argued for individual sports as well. This type of constant surveillance and data management has such a big focus on performance that it can create a sort of machine mentality, essentially making athletes seem like superheroes as opposed to what they really are, human.
Surveillance to this extent creates an added pressure for the athlete where every little mistake that they make can be picked up on and scrutinised by their coaches. Athletes and their coaches rely heavily on this type of data capture and believe that it really does improve their race performance. The question the article poses however, is how long this mentality will last.
Elite Athletes might as well be celebrities in todays society, and most of them are. As a result of this it can be argued that invasion of privacy is just part of the job description. The more successful they become, the more fans they accumulate and their public interest rating sky rockets.
Continuing advancements in technology however, allows for increased surveillance in athletes day-to-day lives and the question that has to be asked is if whether this is going to harm them or help them in the long run? For me, personally, I think this can be argued either way- it can be both a blessing and a curse.
- Sanderson, Jimmy, 2009, ‘Professional Athletes’ Shrinking Privacy Boundaries: Fans, Information and Communication Technologies, and Athlete Monitoring’, International Journal of Sport Communication, vol.2, no.2, Arizona State University, USA, p. 241, retrieved 17th August 2016, Communication and Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost.