There is something of a kerfuffle among certain media commentators about the use of music to entertain spectators in the Olympic stadium at the athletics events.
Music has been a pretty constant feature of these games – from Danny Boyle’s history tour of Britpop in the opening ceremony to the sound systems in use in the Olympic Park and in venues.
The issue is that the stadium DJs are busily pumping out musical rhythms during races, not just in between them. This is dividing opinion between the purists who believe the sporting action is being devalued and others whose argument is: what’s wrong with helping staid old athletics reach a wider audience?
London organisers have put a lot of work into what they call the “presentation” of sport. Giant screens use films and graphics to help spectators understand the rules of sports they may not be familiar with, and what to look out for. In breaks of play, pitchside presenters wander into the crowd to conduct interviews. Music is probably the most significant way to get spectators geed up for the sport itself.
“We have consciously gone out to ramp up sports presentation across all sports,” says Locog’s Jackie Brock-Doyle.
All this is done with the consent of the sporting bodies, such as basketball which is long in the tooth in blending music entertainment with its sport.
Patrick Baumann, secretary general of Fiba, the international basketball federation, says there is “always a dead time” during a sporting event.
But even basketball turns off the music when play is in progress. The first evening of athletics on Friday featured a thumping rhythmic drumbeat accompanying the final of the women’s 10,000m.
Given that the stadium was pretty nearly full and the crowd was generating enough atmosphere of its own, why the need to rev up spectator excitement anyway?
The fact is that athletics has been doing this for some time. On the circuit of international competition, such as the Diamond League, DJ’s pipe music during races to create the sense of drama.
The athletes aren’t distracted by the music – they are in the “zone” of concentration, obliterating all extraneous matter.
There are purists within the International Amateur Athletics Federation who are sniffy about the issue, but go along with it. Lord Coe is on the sceptical side but says there are others in athletics more conservative than him.
Thousands of spectators in the stadium on Friday said they love it, say Locog. Those lucky enough to be heading to the stadium this week can make their own judgment.