World Athletics debuts pioneering crowd atmosphere technology

MONACO: World Athletics introduced a bespoke atmosphere creation system at the Monaco Diamond League meeting on August 14, which is being used to enhance the experience for the athletes, the spectators and the broadcast audience in the absence of a full crowd.

The technology, which has been developed specifically for the sport of athletics this year, will compensate for any lack of stadium atmosphere caused by reduced or absent spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Herculis meeting in Monaco usually features a capacity crowd of 16,000 but this was reduced to a maximum of 5000 this year to assist the meeting organisers to maintain health and safety protocols in the Stade Louis II.

World Athletics’ event presentation team has worked with the Australian designers at aFX Global, and their unique audio effects engine, to develop an integrated hardware and software solution tailor-made for athletics, which can create the typical crowd sounds heard at athletics meetings, at the right moment.

An expert sound operator will use the system to generate custom spectator sounds in real time.

An extensive database of sounds from various World Athletics Championships and Wanda Diamond League meetings is the backbone of the system and feeds the kinetic audience response, creating new sounds rather than looping old audio samples.

“Creating stages for our athletes is one of our core tasks,” World Athletics event presentation manager Florian Weber said. “Given the circumstances we have to be creative and innovative to find new ways to make these stages still the best ones to compete, even without spectators.

“Ghost events don’t have to be silent. Our Atmosphere Project will create an environment that athletes are used to, help them to compete and perform better and at the same time enhance the viewer experience for the TV audience. We’re thankful to be able to use the Wanda Diamond League to implement this World Athletics innovation.”

The system will also be in use at the Wanda Diamond League meetings in Stockholm (August 23) and Brussels (September 4), which will both be held without spectators.

The aFX system, developed by sound engineers Tony David Cray and Des O’Neill, uses real fans and proprietary artificial intelligence to create a kinetic audience response designed for each stadium and venue – from acoustic qualities to crowd placement and immediate reaction times.