Will the performance of the Olympian without the audience drop?

Will the performance of the Olympian without the audience drop?

The Olympics have opened, but Tokyo is still in a state of emergency due to the new crown epidemic. Before the game, the International Olympic Committee and other five-party meetings decided that the Olympic games within Tokyo will be held in empty venues without spectators, and other venues will decide specific measures according to the situation.

Faced with this decision, some contestants expressed regret that no one was watching their game live. The Olympic Committee proposed that the scene of the game will use the screen to display the images of the audience watching the game online, and play the cheers from the previous Olympics.

Will the performance of the Olympian without the audience drop?

Will the performance of the Olympian without the audience drop?

Will the atmosphere of the Tokyo Olympics be better than filling the audience with paper figures? 丨Video screenshot

Athlete’s excitement or error depends mainly on the project

The applause of the audience is an important part of many competitions. The long-distance running track is always very lively. Most athletes also like the audience’s enthusiastic reaction and work harder. In football and basketball games, the audience cheering for the home team even wanted to overturn the stadium (as well as the away team and referees) .

Will the performance of the Olympian without the audience drop?

Waves of spectators in the stadium丨giphy

However, in some competitions, athletes prefer the audience to be quiet, especially when a round is not over, it is common for players on the tennis court to put their fingers on their lips to the audience. If someone cheers loudly at this time, the player may make a mistake, even if it is the one supported by the audience.

The same enthusiastic audience may make athletes perform supernormally or abnormally. The difference cannot be simply attributed to whether the athlete enjoys cheering, but more importantly, the characteristics of the sport.

If the athletic ability that determines the performance is simply classified, it can be divided into two categories: physical fitness and coordination. Although strictly speaking, all events combine these two types of abilities, some sports focus more on physical fitness, such as long-distance running and weightlifting; some require more coordination, such as shooting and golf; and some sports have both types of abilities. Very demanding, such as football and basketball.

Will the performance of the Olympian without the audience drop?

Sports ability classification丨References [3]

Physically-led projects, the audience is exciting

Among them, the items with high physical requirements are mainly determined by physical strength, and the actions are relatively simple. Quantitative methods are commonly used to determine the results, such as time, speed, or weight. Athletes usually do their best in the game and don’t need to worry about using too much force. For example, human beings are born to be able to run long distances. Although professional athletes need to adjust their movements, they spend far less energy on learning movements than improving their physical fitness. The competition is about speed, and athletes will sprint as hard as they can when they are about to reach the finish line.

For this type of event, the audience can usually prompt the athlete to break through. The phenomenon that the presence of others can improve athletic performance has been recorded as early as 1898, when studies showed that cyclists riding with someone else can ride alone at least 25% faster than riding alone. Later, scientists gradually discovered that as long as there are spectators watching, even if they are not competing, they will affect the performance of athletes. This may be related to the increase in the level of arousal in psychology.

Scientists have studied the influence of bystanders on running in this way: on the same road, compare the running speed with no one, someone with their backs facing, and someone facing. The result is that no one has the same speed as when someone is facing back, and when someone faces the track, the runner will accelerate significantly, that is, being watched by others will make people run faster.

Although the level of Olympic athletes is better than the athletes in these studies, the influence of the audience may be different, but from the current results, holding the Tokyo Olympics in an empty field may not be good for those who mainly rely on endurance or strength.

Projects that need to be coordinated are not necessarily

Sports that pay more attention to coordination mainly rely on the ability to process information. Actions may be simple or complex, and the outcome is often determined by qualitative standards of accuracy or balance. The game requires a high degree of concentration and coordination of multiple systems throughout the body, but it does not necessarily require exhaustion. Just like archery requires hand-eye coordination to aim at the target, the bow-drawing action needs to be honed, but it is not that the harder you pull the better.

In this type of coordinated-led project, the conclusions of the current studies are not consistent as to whether the audience improves or reduces the athlete’s performance. Studies have shown that the performance of elite golf players in noisy environments (audience cheering, dog barking, etc.) is no different from or slightly better than quiet environments. However, in other studies, there are also athletes whose performance is reduced due to spectators. In addition, the player’s level may also affect the role of the audience. In a study that accurately tracked the target by hand, the subjects who just started learning performed better when operating alone, and after being proficient, the presence of the audience made the operation more accurate.

For events that require both physical fitness and coordination, the role of spectators for athletes is still inconclusive. In one study, athletes performed worse in gymnastics (such as somersaults and handstands) when there were spectators . Another study on karate suggests that the audience makes the performance of lower-level players worse, while the high-level players do not change significantly. In tennis, perhaps players with better skills will get better results due to the appearance of the audience, and players with poor skills will be worse.

As for the reason for the poor performance, it may be that increasing the level of arousal will worsen the performance of such complex tasks, and the cheering of the audience may distract athletes, especially those who usually train in a quiet environment and are occasionally disturbed by accident.

Therefore, for these projects that require more coordination, we still don’t know whether the loss of the audience will affect the athletes’ performance for good or bad.


The host’s advantage may still be there

Everyone has heard of the “home advantage” in sports, that is, it is easier to win a home game at home than on the away game. The most obvious difference is in team sports such as football and basketball. Some individual events will also be affected. There are many reasons behind this. Many people will suspect that the audience cheered the home team and booed the away team.

In order to understand the impact of stadium noise on football players, a study used a ball feeding machine to test the accuracy and speed of the players’ passing, comparing the four situations of normal state, complete silence (wearing headphones) , cheering and boos. The results showed that there was no significant difference in the accuracy of each group, but the passing speed was significantly lower than normal when there was no sound and hissing.

Researchers believe that hearing the sound of the ball can help players play better, so their performance becomes worse when silent; boos cover the sound of the ball and make performance worse; and cheers can also cover the sound of the ball, but it may make the player perform worse. More pleasant, the negative effects are offset, that is, the support of the audience may improve the player’s performance.

Out of the laboratory, the empty football match during the new crown epidemic provides scientists with real-world research opportunities. Comparing the game situation in the previous years and after, the study found that after losing the audience, the home court advantage may be reduced, but it still exists. When it comes to shooting, when there is no spectator, the number of shots by a player is reduced by half, but the changes in goals and scoring are not obvious. It can be understood that the audience may affect the way football is played, but the impact on the result is still inconclusive.

In the previous Olympic Games, the number of medals in the host country is usually much higher than in previous years. This time the host Japan also has a lot of advantages, but holding the game empty may add some opportunities for other countries.


[1] https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/en/news/joint-statement-on-spectator-capacities-at-the-olympic-games-tokyo-2020

[2] https://wap.peopleapp.com/article/6252960/6150748

[3] Bernd Strauss. Social facilitation in motor tasks: a review of research and theory. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 2002;3(3):237-256.

[4] Worringham CJ, Messick DM. Social facilitation of running: an unobtrusive study. J Soc Psychol. 1983;121(1st Half):23-9.

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[6] Otte FW, Millar SK, Klatt S. What do you hear? The effect of stadium noise on football players’ passing performances. Eur J Sport Sci. 2021;21(7):1035-1044.

[7] Wunderlich F, Weigelt M, Rein R, Memmert D. How does spectator presence affect football? Home advantage remains in European top-class football matches played without spectators during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLoS One. 2021;16(3):e0248590.

[8] Sors F, Grassi M, Agostini T, Murgia M. The sound of silence in association football: Home advantage and referee bias decrease in matches played without spectators. Eur J Sport Sci. 2020 :1-9.

[9] Hill Y, Van Yperen NW. Losing the Home Field Advantage When Playing Behind Closed Doors During COVID-19: Change or Chance? Front Psychol. 2021;12:658452.

[10] Matos R, Monteiro D, Antunes R, Mendes D, Botas J, Clemente J, Amaro N. Home-Advantage during COVID-19: An Analysis in Portuguese Football League. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(7):3761.

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