Olympics and spectacle

TV still has the power to knock your socks off. I’m thinking about the Olympics, of course. Some people are probably calling this the ‘red button’ games (at least in Britain) but I reckon this has to be the games of the ’embedded’ camera. Big, static cameras pointed at the action are obviously history. Now you run the camera on a little train along the bottom of the pool or down the ten metre tower and – splash – into the water with the divers or out into the Saronic Gulf lashed to a mast or perched – wobbling – on the high bar or velcro’d to the athlete’s shorts as he wanders the village. The Olympic environment is studded with cameras (I wonder how many there are?) – it’s like the benign flipside of the surveillance society. There are no dark corners any more.

Sport and spectacle have finally collided and it makes perfect sense. From now on the idea of competing for any prize without perfect 360°, hi-def coverage will just seem weird. And it can only get stranger and more intimate – the barriers are down and the technology is out of control. Biometrics and blood chemistry (real-time public drug testing – how’s that for transparency?), downtime (Big Brother live from the Olympic Village). The coverage has been stretched in every direction – there’s more of it and it goes closer to the action and to the personalities. Sports TV meets reality TV. The cameras will be everywhere and the athletes will have no refuge…

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