Stop filming our butts.

That's the message from female sprinters at the world athletics championships in Doha, who are protesting new cameras that have been installed on the starting blocks to offer viewers a unique angle of the beginning of a race.

Hailed before the competition by International Association of Athletics Federations broadcast director James Lord as an innovation that would "capture that intense moment just before a race", the cameras have instead made athletes feel exposed.

Athletes are protesting new cameras that have been installed on the starting blocks to offer viewers a unique angle of the beginning of a race.
Athletes are protesting new cameras that have been installed on the starting blocks to offer viewers a unique angle of the beginning of a race.

German sprinters Tatjana Pinto and Gina Luckenkemper have led the criticism, saying standing above the cameras in short running shots wasn't comfortable.

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"Was a woman involved in developing this camera? I don't think so," Luckenkemper told Bild.

"We were probably not the only ones to lodge a protest," she added.

The IAAF has agreed to start censoring the vision and will only broadcast footage once athletes are in position on the blocks. It will also be deleted every 24 hours.

It's not the only image problem athletics officials have been forced to deal with in Doha.

Qatar confidently promised there would be "no empty seats" when it first bid for the World Athletics Championships but three days into the championships that promise rings as hollow as the Doha stadium.

One of the greatest athletes of all time, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, won a record fourth 100m title in front of a sparse crowd on Sunday with officials and friends and family of the athletes making up a large proportion of the spectators.

Although Doha hosts a Diamond League meeting, athletics has no real roots in Qatar and the decision to take the World Championships to the Gulf raised eyebrows.

Athletes leave the starting blocks in the women's 100m heats. Photo / Getty Images
Athletes leave the starting blocks in the women's 100m heats. Photo / Getty Images

Fans even left before local medal hope Abderrahman Samba had run his heat on Friday in the men's 400m hurdles.

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It is not the image the IAAF and its newly re-elected president Sebastian Coe — who normally has a sure political touch — would have wished for in the first championships since the sport's huge drawcard Usain Bolt retired after an almost sold out championships in London in 2017.

According to the official figures, over 11,000 spectators filed into the Khalifa International Stadium both on the opening night and then for one of the marquee events, the men's 100m final, on Saturday.

The stadium has a maximum 40,000 capacity but had already had its size reduced to around 20,000 by blocking out an upper tier.

A collection of television images showing what the new camera captures.
A collection of television images showing what the new camera captures.

The organisers issued a statement on Monday saying extra efforts would be made to ensure larger crowds during the remaining week of the championships.

"After two solid days of attendance, (70 per cent on Day 1 and 67 per cent on Day 2), numbers were down on our expectations on Day 3, under 50 per cent, which coincided with the start of the working week in Qatar," it read.

"We are confident that our renewed efforts will encourage the local community to come and witness the stunning performance of the world's best athletes."

They added that part of the problem lay with many finals being held late in Qatar to fit global television schedules.

"This impacts on the number of spectators remaining until the end of the session," the statement said.