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Olympic disharmony: London defends music during track events

Alastair Jamieson/NBC News

Anya Starovoytov, from San Francisco, likes the music at Saturday's track events

LONDON – Organizers of the London Games on Saturday defended loud music played in the Olympic Stadium while athletes are competing.

Pop tunes with a playlist dominated by British artists were being played constantly between Friday night’s events at the 80,000-seater track and field venue, and also during longer races such as the women's 10,000-meter final.

Some commentators and ticket-holders criticized the decision via social media, calling it “intrusive” and “horribly, unforgivably misjudged.”


Jackie Brock-Doyle, director of communications at the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), said the idea had been approved by the sport's IAAF governing body.

She told reporters on Saturday: “In terms of the music, I think we have the level right, but if you are saying that people are not liking it, then, of course, we will have a look at it, but we have actually had loads of really positive feedback about the atmosphere and the music in the venue.”

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Paul Kelso, sports writer at The Daily Telegraph newspaper, wrote on Saturday that the music was “drowning out the golden moments of London 2012.”

He wrote:

Locog have made much of their use of music in venues, and for the most part it has been well-judged and discerningly selected. Who has ever heard This Charming Man by The Smiths at an athletics meeting before?

But last night, as the women’s 10,000m provided the climax of an exhilarating first day, it was horribly, unforgivably misjudged. The race is one of the great treats of the Olympics, a slowly unfolding drama of tactics and pacing, team strategy combining with individual ambition to provide a unique, always memorable event.

But instead of respecting the athletes and allowing the drama to unfold naturally, the witless gang in the stadium DJ booth decided that techno and twaddle would enhance the experience.

So as a group of four athletes, including eventual winner Tirunesh Dibaba, broke the field and gathered themselves for the finish with 2,000m to run, the commentator, Canadian Garry Hill, encouraged a Mexican Wave to track them round the stadium.

Worse, with two laps to go he dropped some house music. For what its worth it was a decent tune, but it was an unforgiveable distraction from the climax of one of the purest tests of athleticism we will see at the London Games. It might also have been a distraction to the athletes as they calibrated their pace for the final surge.

His comments were echoed by many Twitter users.  Athletics Weekly editor Jason Henderson Tweeted: "Not sure about loud, thumping music in athletics stadium. Grands prix, fine. But Olympics should be more traditional, surely."

London journalist Nick Metcalfe posted: “Is the gloss being taken off the Olympic Stadium atmosphere already? Many complaints about intrusive announcements and music.”

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However, the crowd at Saturday's track events was more positive. Tom Wong, from east Yorkshire, England, said: "I really like it - they've chosen the music well and it really helps the atmosphere - it would feel very quiet otherwise."

Anya Starovoytov, from San Francisco, said: "It's getting everyone really pumped up - I can't see that it would bother anyone."

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The music was also defended at Saturday’s press conference by Teresa Edwards, chef de mission at the United States Olympic Committee. She said: “I love it. You can't hear it. In basketball it definitely goes out as soon as the player hits the floor. It entertains the crowd, and we are very used to it in the States, to be honest with you.”

Alastair Jamieson/NBC News

Tom Wong, from east Yorkshire, England, welcomed the music

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Patrick Bauman, secretary-general of the Federation of International Basketball, added:  “Personally I maybe agree that it is loud but that is a personal view. The spectators really love it. It does not bother the players and the athletes, they are playing the game.

“In my venue we haven't received any complaints at all. They come in at 9 o'clock in the morning, they leave at midnight and they are all happy, so I think they have the right mix of talent on the field, at least in our sport, and of music and of loudness as well because people like to cheer, they like their kiss cam, and they like singing English songs which are known worldwide, and I think that is really good. It brings more to their experience. It has been excellent, and certainly better than what we had in the past.”

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