- Alejandro Milan Valencia
- bbc news world
Perhaps one of the most memorable pictures from the Tokyo Olympics will be of the stands empty due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the importance of the Olympics, the Japanese government declared a general state of emergency in the country on 9 July due to COVID-19. This measure adds to the fear that the venues where the Olympic events will take place will not have spectators.
The organizing committee had earlier indicated that foreign spectators would not be allowed to occupy the stands. This restriction was later extended to local audiences.
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It will be the first Olympic Games in more than 120 years in which stadium stands will not be filled.
While this will not be the first sporting event without spectators – many disciplines have moved their tournaments to closed venues during the pandemic – it is unprecedented for a global event of this magnitude.
“It all depends… This can be a positive aspect for individual disciplines, where spectators can affect the concentration of athletes, but a downside for team sports that have a strong connection to the stands,” said Mundo. BBC Dr. Laurie Heller Professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University (USA).
For Heller, sound has always been part of the high-performance sporting experience for both competitors and the public.
“Now there is one less element: spectators, noise. And it affects other aspects in many ways as well: on local athletes, on foreigners and even on the performances of the judges. Creeps everywhere”, Says psychologists, insist that “there is a synergy between sound and performance”.
When the pandemic broke out in March 2020, most mass sporting events were cancelled.
However, a few months later, the major professional leagues gradually resumed competitions to honor televised contracts, but with evidence that matches were to be played without the presence of the public.
Some athletes refused to participate. This is the case of American basketball star LeBron James. “No fans, no games,” he said.
However, the virus was spreading around the world, and filling the stadium with thousands of spectators was only a risk that should not be taken.
So we got used to seeing a completely empty stadium on the TV screen.
“It’s easy to overlook the importance of the listening experience at a sporting event. You don’t even think about the noise of the crowd until the crowd is over,” she adds.
According to Academia, for some athletes — especially those used to large crowds — noise has a big impact on muscle performance.
“There are athletes who have the ability to synchronize their performance with the noise coming from the crowd. In other words, the noise is a kind of fuel for performing at their best,” said Laurie Heller.
This is probably why many games have tried to artificially reproduce the sound of the crowd. In fact, in the NBA, screens are installed in arenas where supporters watch games from their homes.
However, and it’s a point that experts agree on, there are less popular sports on the other hand where crowd noise isn’t necessary.
told the BBC, “How it will affect it depends on the individual. And the truth is that every athlete should already know how this factor is going to affect him, because he should take this into account in his preparation.” Was.” Mundo Daniel Weigand, Professor of Sports Performance Psychology at Western States University (United States).
For Weigand, in many cases the issue of spectators is more important to the fans or spectators of the sport than to the athletes themselves.
“You have to keep in mind that many athletes participating in the Games do so for a large part of their Olympic cycle with almost non-existent spectators, so for some of them it will not be a big change”, he explains. are does.
In recent years, host countries know they have a great opportunity to achieve historic performances.
South Korea is an example: before Seoul hosted the 1988 Olympics, this Asian country had won just seven gold medals (most of them at the previous Games, 1984 in Los Angeles).
At home, South Korean athletes won 12 gold medals. This is almost double what it was four years ago.
History repeats itself with the United Kingdom. In London in 2012, local athletes won 26 gold medals, the second best participation in their history (with 56 medals in London in 1908). Australia, Greece, China and the United States also fared better at home.
Perhaps Japan was expecting something similar: surpassing the 16 gold medals won in Tokyo in 1964.
Mr Weigand explains that he worked with the UK basketball team for many years and had a strategy based on the dates of home games.
“Supporting your home audience can take the pressure off you and put it on the opponent. It’s that simple. And that, with good preparation, can get you an Olympic medal that you don’t have.” Might not get it in another country,” Weigand says.
But all may not be lost for Japan.
In a recent report published in the journal PLOS One, researchers analyzed nearly 1,000 matches across six major European football leagues that took place last year without spectators and compared them to the previous season.
One of the main findings of a study by members of the German Sports University is that teams maintained a home advantage despite the absence of supporters in the stands.
The sample (with matches in England, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Germany and Spain) shows that home teams have won 43% of matches compared to 45% in the previous season.
“Current data suggest that household benefit is decreasing, but is insignificant,” note the study authors.
However, the document refers only to football, a sport where the crowd has always played an important role.
Influence of judges?
It is also clear that a judge can also have an effect on the outcome of victory or defeat.
Mexican diver Carlos Girón is the best proof: during the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, marked by a US boycott, Girón performed an extraordinary lap of diving on a three-meter platform.
At the decisive moment of receiving the gold medal, conflicted with the Russian Alexander Portnov, the latter made a frightening leap in favor of the Mexican.
However, one of the judges – Swede G. Olander – remarked that the noise of the crowd had “distracted” Portnov, and he was allowed to repeat the jump. In the end, it was the Russian who won the gold medal.
While it is true that such cases are quite exceptional, experts agree that the silence of the stand may provide some respite for Olympic judges.
“I think the absence of a crowd will benefit the performance of the referees, who can focus and make better decisions,” Weigand said.
According to Heller, judges, although trained, can also be prone to excessive noise, which can cause an increased heart rate and therefore impair judgment.
And that added tension will not be present in Tokyo.
“Whistling, shouting that is often a direct insult puts direct pressure on the judges, especially in popular sports like football or basketball. And even more so if you’re competing for a medal”, underlines Wiegand.
Another major finding of the PLOS ONE report is that, without spectators, referees are now reporting more fouls on the home side than before.
We’ll have to wait until the end of the Olympic Games to see how the silence and “relative loneliness” will affect the hero’s performance in Tokyo and the referee’s job.
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