Big Brother Goes for Gold! (Surveillance and Elite Athletes)

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.

Rio 2016 by Ian Burt CC BY 2.0

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).

Phelps and Lochte by Incase CC BY 2.0

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.

Gold Medal Olympic Boxer by Paul Hudson CC BY 2.0

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.



27 thoughts on “Big Brother Goes for Gold! (Surveillance and Elite Athletes)

  1. A strong and thought-provoking blog post Anithra! This is an original idea that I have never even thought of or heard of in todays mainstream media – and is also exceptionally relevant with the current Olympics. A nice balanced blend of twitter posts and relevant visuals (also supported by creative commons!) made this a fantastic read. It was fantastic that you pointed out how these athletes are still human and still weak in a sense, but I think perhaps mentioning illegal performance enhancing drugs (relates to surveillance!) would of created a very balanced point of view. But still a strong eye-opening blog post 🙂 Awesome stuff!!


    1. Thanks so much Brett! I basically spent the last week glued my TV watching the Olympics so I thought something productive should come of it :p
      I really wanted to mention doping but it would have made my word count too long, I’ll try and find a way to add it somewhere or maybe i’ll do another blog post specifically on the issue!


  2. Hey Anithra, it is always entertaining to read your blog posts. What an interesting topic you have chosen! I like how you have started off introducing the topic by talking about your own experience related to the norm of Olympic fandom. In the body of your blog, it is good to see that you have kept your view neutral towards surveillance in athletes by pointing out both positive and negative aspects of this kind of surveillance supported by scholarly sources. It is great that you have kept your paragraphs short, which made the content readable. Also, you blog is professionally presented with visuals throughout. The only thing you should be aware of is your reference list at the end. I suggest you to go through Deakin referencing guide and adjust your reference!


  3. Anithra, What a great blog post!

    Your post was current, relevant and engaging all rolled into one! Well done!

    When you address the privacy of athletes, yes they are human and they are entitled to privacy, but their skill makes a name for them, therefor their name and their skill become a Brand. A brand, which is marketed by sponsorship and earns them big dollars! They are essentially paid to perform and entertain.
    I do agree with you though, has the surveillance gone too far now with technology?

    An additional element, which could of enhanced your post, could have been examples of positive and negatives effects surveillance has had on sporting stars.

    Can’t wait to read more of your post!
    Brittany ☺


  4. Hi Anithra,
    What a fantastic blog!
    I love your use of extra content – tweets, images, block quotes and hyperlinks. Your use of a reference shows enhanced understanding of the topic and your ability to find resources to support your argument. Well done.
    However, i do have a tip for you. Please be weary of where your extra content is placed. It may only be a small, if irrelevant point, however, I do find that it can be distracting to have extra content of different sizes scattered all over the blog. I’m not sure how much of a hand you have in choosing where media sits, however it is something to keep in mind.
    Otherwise, fantastic effort; keep up the good work and I really do look forward to reading more of your work.


    1. Thanks for your comment Saarah, glad you enjoyed reading it.
      As for the placing of the images and tweets, they are set up like that to ensure so that it breaks up all the writing so that it is visually engaging as well. As for the sizing of it- it is difficult to edit the sizing of images and not have the wording move around too much so I tried my best to have the images relatively the same size and with the embedded tweets unfortunately you are not able to control the size or placement of them :/

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Anithra,

    You have such a talent in writing and blogging! Your use of emotive language and timely examples is engaging, whilst also prompting me to question how I interpret athlete privacy.
    Of course, while the Olympics are on our screens, we watch eagerly and report every movement, event and triumph.
    I believe athletes are the exception to our average understanding of ‘fame’ and media surveillance, because once this events are over, we seemingly lose interest in their personal journey and achievements.
    Check out this article that details how our Olympic athletes are just like us (minus the gold medals ha!)

    Great blog overall 🙂


    1. Thanks so much Lilly!
      As for athletes being the exception, I do agree with you but then again i’m not a intense sports fan. I could imagine someone who is really into a particular sport following an athlete and their progress just as intensely as they would a actor/actress. I can’t speak for all sports but i do know for swimming there are websites that post articles on swimmers whereabouts and progress throughout the year.
      will be sure to check out the article, thanks again for your lovely comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Just by reading the first paragraph of your blog I was glued to my screen; a well written personal narrative is often overlooked when writing blogs, however you wrote a fantastic and interesting anecdote. This was a great start to your blog and set the stage very well, and made a very solid and credible blog post when combined with your fluent writing style, great use of relevant references, and images. The only small change which could have made this blog stand out just a little bit more would have been the case study of a specific athlete who has been harmed by the pressures of surveillance. This would have made your blog just a bit easier to connect with on a personal level; however this was a terrific blog post regardless and stands out very well against many other pieces.


  7. Hi Anithra, loved the blog post– very topical!! I think the whole nation is glued to the television when the Olympic swimming is on so your anecdotal opening was very relateable. Visually your blog looks very professional and small paragraphs make the content easy to engage with. Use of scholarly resources ensured a very moderate, equally weighted article. If you wanted to expand this topic you could look beyond visual surveillance and examine physiological surveillance in the form of drug testing at the Olympics:
    Great work!


  8. Hey Anithra,

    This is a really good blog post. I enjoyed your writing style and the media helped break up the larger parts of text creating a much easier piece to digest. There are two distinct parts to the blog, and each topic could be a post in their own right – a trap I tend to fall into also.

    The second part is lacking in references, especially where you paint coaches with a such a broad brush. On the ‘superheros’ issue take a look at some interviews with Terry Crews (; AKA, the most awesome guy on the planet.




  9. Hi Anithra,
    Well done on such an engaging and well written blog post. I too was glued to the swimming during the Olympics so I appreciate your obsession! It would be great if you could expand on the negatives of elite athlete surveillance outside performance review capabilities. Some examples would be Usian Bolt’s indiscretions after his final race, or Ryan Lochte being caught in his own lie – two instances that would undoubtedly not have been international news without the celebrity culture around athletes. Check those out here Other than that great post!


  10. Hey Anithra,

    Writing a blog about the Olympics was a really good idea, everyone is hyped up about the Olympics at the moment. Good idea combing a current event with unit content.

    You’re not alone when it comes to seasonally watching sport. I’m glued to the TV watching the gymnastics every Olympics.

    The content you’ve written is really interesting, you have 2 really strong ideas within the blog. It flows really nice from relatable first person language to factual information.

    My only feedback with improving the blog is that it would’ve been nice to see both these ideas of fandom and the positive aspects and dehumanising of athletes explored a bit further (maybe 2 separate blogs). Such great ideas I just want to read more!!

    I thought this article might be interesting for you to look at. It’s about the Usain Bolt scandal. An example of fandom gone wrong for sure!


    Liked by 1 person

  11. Anithra, This is such a great blog post!

    I loved the way your post was current as the Rio olympics have just finished, when you address the privacy of athletes you said they are also entitled to their privacy but their sport creates there brand. The way you started your blog post by talking about your own experiences related to the Sporting was very eye striking. Your blog post also created an interesting structuring as you chose view the positives and negatives about surveillance for athletes and backed it up with scholarly sources. All your visuals and medias really helped support your argument throughout your blog post. The only issue i would comment on is that you should have a reference list at the end. furthermore well done!!!


  12. Really enjoyed reading this blog post! You have a great writing style that is suited to blogs. I’m a fan of blogs that focus more on the writers personal views and you did this really well. It was good to read a post that also focuses on benefits of surveillance for once rather than only negatives. I’m a huge sports fan and I think it’s extremely beneficial to athletes, I know athletes such as basketballers for instance will study videos of fellow competitors and steal their moves! Maybe you could have used quotes from real athletes on their thoughts on this topic to back up some of your points. Great post though!


  13. Hi Anithra!

    Great blog post. I like how you explained your interest in watching competitive swimming, followed by the implementation of a tweet to support this view. It was very effective in increasing my engagement as a reader.
    Even though you are a big fan of swimmers, it was nice to see that you kept your view neutral and addressed both sides of the coin in relation to the invasion of privacy for professional athletes.

    I enjoyed reading about how fans are becoming sports journalists through their online documentation of the Rio Olympics! I had never thought of it like that.

    Your writing style is not only professional, but also personal. The way in which you use brackets; example (yes, I watch those too) is very clever and made me smile. The images you have integrated show that you have a good understanding of creative commons and techniques in which to increase the readers engagement. I particularly liked the cute image of the lego man.

    I would’ve liked to have seen you include an example of a specific athlete who is facing the pressures of privacy invasion, as it would have been very intriguing to learn about and could provide a different view on the topic.

    Overall this blog post was really well written and I believe you have the potential to be a professional blogger! Well done.


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