Sportswear Brand Launches Infrared-Blocking Fabric to Shield Athletes From Creepy Photographers
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Sportswear Brand Launches Infrared-Blocking Fabric to Shield Athletes From Creepy Photographers

 agymnast performing a floor move

With the Olympics just around the corner, a Japanese sportswear line has introduced infrared-blocking fabric to protect athletes from illicit photography.

Mizuno has moved to address the problem of creepy photographers taking photos of athletes for the purposes of their own pleasure rather than documenting sport; a problem so acute in Japan that lawmakers there passed a bill last year criminalizing “photo voyeurism.”

Sports uniforms that block visible light are already a thing but Mizuno has also sought to make clothing that blocks infrared light. This is because some untoward photographers have used infrared thermal cameras to pick up heat signatures beneath athletes’ undergarments.

Unseen Japan reports that former volleyball player Ootomo Ai said that she fell victim to infrared photos as well as some photographers trying to take pictures in and around the women’s bathroom.

“Mizuno has thus far primarily focused on high-performance products that support athletes in their pursuit of greater dynamic performance,” reads a press release from Mizuno.

It says the new fabric incorporates “specialized material that excels in absorbing light in the infrared range into the textile composition.”

Diagram shows an experimental setup for photographing a Landolt ring. A camera using visible or infrared light points at a paper with the Landolt ring shape. This paper is partially obscured by top and bottom layers of fabric.
Mizuno

Mizuno says that the infrared-blocking fabric can “help reduce the number of athletes that fall victim to illicit infrared photography.”

A Problem in Japan

Unseen Japan notes that while the country is lauded for its low crime rates and general safety, iniqutous issues remain for women such as groping attacks and nonconsensual photography.

The bill against “photo voyeurism” that was passed into law last year prohibits acts such as “upskirting” and taking sexually exploitative images and videos of others without consent.

However, women athletes in Japan receive a unique form of sexual harassment that is difficult to stamp out. Cameras are widely accepted at sporting events but some photographers arrive with ulterior motives.

Former gymnast Tanaka Rie told TBS that she could hear cameras clicking when she opened her legs to do a handstand on the parallel bars.

“I got angry and heated,” Rie said. “I thought, ‘I’m not competing here for you to take these sorts of pictures’.”

The photo voyeurism law last year didn’t cover taking pictures of female athletes with sexual intent but some local governments have since passed ordinances declaring such practices as a form of sexual assault.

Unseen Japan notes that the city of Kyoto filed charges against a 39-year-old public employee for taking hundreds of photos of the lower half of female athlete’s bodies and their breasts.


Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.