'Indecent and invasive': Athletics rocked by 'creepy' camera controversy

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Female athletes have complained to the IAAF after the introduction of new starting block cameras at the athletics world championships in Doha.

The International Association of Athletics Federations said the new technology would “capture that intense moment just before a race”.

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But instead they’ve left female athletes feeling very uncomfortable.

Dina Asher-Smith, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson wait on the starting blocks prior to the Women's 100 Metres final. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The cameras are installed at the front of the starting blocks, which athletes crouch down over before taking up their position.

German runners Tatjana Pinto and Gina Luckenkemper have led the protests.

"I as a woman find that quite stupid," Luckenkemper said in a statement.

"And I have said I would doubt that a woman was part of the development of that (the cameras)."

She also told German publication Bild: “I find it very uncomfortable climbing over this camera in skimpy running clothes to go to the starting block.”

“We were probably not the only ones to lodge a protest.”

Tatjana Pinto, Rebekka Haase, Gina Luckenkemper and Lisa Mayer. (Image: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

German officials have now demanded the footage only be broadcast once the athletes are in their starting positions.

The IAAF has also agreed to delete footage after each day’s events.

Athletics fans were also highly critical of the ‘creepy’ cameras.

Latest controversy to plague world champs

Qatar confidently promised there would be "no empty seats" when it first bid for the world championships, but three days into the 2019 event that promise rings as hollow as the Doha stadium.

One of the greatest athletes of all time, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, won a record fourth 100 metres title in front of a sparse crowd on Sunday with officials and friends and family of the athletes making up a large proportion of the spectators.

Although Doha hosts a Diamond League meeting, athletics has no real roots in Qatar and the decision to take the World Championships to the Gulf raised eyebrows.

Fans even left before local medal hope Abderrahman Samba had run his heat on Friday in the men's 400 metres hurdles.

It is not the image the International Association of Athletics Federations and its newly re-elected president Sebastian Coe -- who normally has a sure political touch -- would have wished for in the first championships since the sport's huge drawcard Usain Bolt retired after an almost soldout championships in London in 2017.

Fraser-Pryce shrugged off Sunday's desert of fans but it is not the first time the Jamaican has won world titles in a less than full stadium -- the crowd was decidedly thin when she and Bolt triumphed in Moscow in 2013.

"I'm used to having the stands rammed," commented a bemused Bolt at the time.

The starting blocks in question. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

That was despite the now disgraced IAAF president Lamine Diack and vice-president Sergey Bubka doing a deal with a Ukrainian oligarch to fly in 2,000 of his employees to populate the stadium.

Diack, who is under investigation in France with the successful bid by Qatar part of the dossier, may take the blame for the Doha debacle but Coe was on the evaluation commission for that bid race.

According to the official figures, over 11,000 spectators filed into the Khalifa International Stadium both on the opening night and then for one of the marquee events, the men's 100 metres final, on Saturday.

The stadium has a maximum 40,000 capacity but had already had its size reduced to around 20,000 by blocking out an upper tier.

The organisers issued a statement on Monday saying extra efforts would be made to ensure larger crowds during the remaining week of the championships.

"After two solid days of attendance, (70 percent on Day 1 and 67 percent on Day 2), numbers were down on our expectations on Day 3, under 50 percent, which coincided with the start of the working week in Qatar," it read.

"We are confident that our renewed efforts will encourage the local community to come and witness the stunning performance of the world’s best athletes."

Athletes were also left furious when nearly half the field in the women’s marathon failed to finish because of the oppressive heat - despite the race starting at midnight.