If you have been watching swimming in Tokyo, you’ve probably heard loud horns blaring during each race. What are they, and why are people putting their music skills to work at a swimming event?

The Tokyo Aquatics Centre can hold up to 5,000 spectators, but due to COVID-19 precautions, only a small fraction of that capacity is filled for each session. Most of the people you see in the stands are news reporters, photographers, coaching staff and other athletes.

A glimpse of empty stands at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre

Broadcasting companies aren’t adding in simulated crowd noise like they did for the most recent National Football League season, so the spectators really have to give it their all! Some people have brought air horns to show their support.

Cheering in swimming is a bit funny — if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that most people only whistle, cheer or toot their horn when their swimmer is breathing! That creates a bit of a chaotic sound, when each swimmer is breathing at a different time. But that’s swimming for you!

Hearing the horns during each race reminds us of the vuvuzelas that were everywhere at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Some people loved them and others hated them, but one thing is for sure: They were loud!

One perk of less crowd noise is that it’s easier to hear the swimmers celebrate and congratulate each other after each race. What do you think?

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  1. Stop with the air horns. In America, we call people that do that A-holes.
    That is only trying to draw attention to themselves, not the swimmers.

  2. Ban them!!! They’re obnoxious!!!!! Many sports ban them. Can’t believe they’re allowed at this international arena!!!

  3. The horns are to help a swimmer keep rhythm. If you notice it’s more prevalent during breaststroke and butterfly. It helps the swimmer keep pace.

  4. Diane gamble on

    As a trainer of officials I have been asked if the use of air horns could be for pacing, which is against FINA law.
    It certainly needs looking at. Personally I would ban them!

  5. Charles Wright on

    Very annoying and need to be banned. As for pacing or cadence, how would spurts of unequal toots and broken up runs help anyone? That’s mostly what I hear, and any athlete who has so little concentration that this effects there performance is not in the Olympics. Goofy attention junkies! All the attendance restrictions and they tolerate this crap…. why?

  6. Gordon Bendall on

    Horns distract from a television broadcast. They are annoying and unnecessary, loud and obnoxious. I’m surprised NBC announcer Rowdy Gains hasn’t complained.

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