A number of Olympic swimmers are walking out to the pool wearing headphones – and keeping them on right up until the last seconds before they climb onto the blocks.
Athletes are said to favor them because they allow them to stay focused on the race in the moments before they take them off to swim and not be distracted by the crowd.
But the practice has divided opinion, with a number of people criticizing the swimmers for ignoring the fans, as the headphones block out their cheers.
Sun Yang, who went on to win a gold medal, was one of several seen wearing the “Beats by Dr. Dre” headphones at the swimming finals on Saturday night.
They are designed to block out all background noise.
US swimming star Michael Phelps – who has 14 Olympic gold medals – keeps his headphones firmly in place until the last minute as he stays focused.
But fans expressed dismay on Twitter, with Ella McSweeney writing: “If I was a fan who travelled to support a swimmer who then appeared with headphones on, I’d feel like being a bit quiet.”
Another wrote: “Why are these swimmers coming out wearing headphones? Take them off and soak up the atmosphere you idiots.”
But they did find some support. Spectator Mari Fotherby told the Independent: “Why shouldn’t they wear them? They train hard 364 days of the year. If they want to use music to stay calm as they get ready to race then they should.”
As well as disappointing the fans, the swimmers who wore the headphones are likely to have left Samsung, the official technology sponsor of the games, somewhat miffed.
Beats by Dre headphones are owned by one of their fiercest corporate rivals, HTC.
Last night a LOCOG spokesperson confirmed that Beats by Dre were not an official sponsor.
“It must be that the athletes just like them,” a spokesman said.
Nobody at the company Beats by Dre was available to comment on whether the headphones had been given to athletes for free.