Olympian Surveillance: Sports Stadiums and the Normalization of Biometric Monitoring
Sports stadiums are a prime site for the deployment and development of facial recognition technology. They are being used to envision and model a spectator experience governed by the operation of automated surveillance and sensor-based monitoring systems, which promise greater security and enhanced consumption opportunities. This article draws on the planned but postponed rollout of NEC’s NeoFace identification system for the Tokyo Olympics to examine broader trends in the deployment of biometric monitoring systems. Drawing on existing and planned uses of these systems, we focus on the sports stadium as a site for considering how biometric surveillance is introduced, implemented, and normalized. The themes of convergence, preemption, and spatiality are central to the messages presented in the industry’s promotional materials, framing facial recognition technology as an essential component of the contemporary media-stadium. The immense popularity of mega-events and the pleasures of live sports erode the contestability of this framing, drawing attention away from the biases, inaccuracies, privacy concerns, and inequalities perpetuated by highly invasive systems that exercise social control in and beyond the stadium.