Empty stadiums use Sex Dolls and Robot Drummers as spectators

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The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the sports world topsy-turvy. Not only has it messed up the sports calendar worldwide, but has also, and will further, change sports as we know it.

For one, the sportspersons would have to get used to playing in front of empty galleries and closed doors, at least for the next few months when sports activities resume. Like former Pakistan pace sensation Shoaib Akhtar said, “Playing cricket in empty stadium is like marriage without bride.” It holds true for almost every sport—it is unimaginable without the fans cheering from the stands.

Extraordinary circumstances, however, call for extraordinary measures. With over 50 lakh COVID-19 positive people around the world, social distancing is important like never before, among other precautions. The result? Sports events are starting sans spectators. To compensate for this vacuum, organisers have come up with several interesting innovations. Here are a few:

‘Sex dolls’

It was, perhaps an innovation which went awry! With fans banned from matches because of the coronavirus, FC Seoul, in South Korea’s K-League, came under fire for deploying dozens of silicone spectators wearing T-shirts or holding placards with the logo of a sex-toy seller. The club, which beat Gwangju FC 1-0 in the match, apologised earlier this week for causing “deep concern” to fans, but insisted the mannequins had no connection to sex toys. But some of the artificial spectators wore T-shirts with the logo of SoloS, a sex toy seller. Other mannequins, which wore facemasks and were separated according to social distancing guidelines, held placards advertising the company and some of its models.

The K-league said its disciplinary committee will review whether the use of the mannequins violated the league’s rules on promoting obscene materials. The K-league’s new season kicked off behind closed doors on May 8 after being postponed for more than two months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Robot drummers

Taiwan’s baseball league, which started last month, saw robots providing live music as they drummed in the stands. It was quite a sight—group of robots, some wearing wigs, sounded support for Rakuten Monkeys in their opening game. There were mannequins, too, wearing the team colours, around the stadium, along with cardboard cut-outs.

Cut-outs with a difference

German football club Borussia Moenchengladbach took the idea of using cardboard cut-outs, a step further, giving fans a chance to have their life-size cut-outs of themselves in the stands. Thousands of fans gladly took up the offer, paying 19 euros to have their cut-outs placed in the Borussia-Park stadium. The idea was such a hit that the campaign organisers are finding it difficult to entertain all the requests!

Recorded cheering

It’s something England pacer Jofra Archer, too, had suggested—crowd simulation. Though nothing can replace the roar of the thousands of fans, Archer had suggested playing audio of crowd noise to create a realistic atmosphere in stadiums. In K-League, recordings of popular chants have been played in the country’s empty football venues.

Meanwhile, TV viewers of Australian Rules football will hear pre-recorded crowd noises laid over the match footage when games return next month.

Technology to the rescue

An app, MyApplause, has been developed that allows fans to create crowd noise from their homes. They can choose to cheer, clap, chant and whistle, and the resulting noise is played over the stadium loudspeakers and the spectators’ home sound systems. Team-specific logos and chants are also available.

South Korean baseball, meanwhile, chose to broadcast fans on to a stadium big screen as they watch the game online.