crowd Protesters

Protesters crowd Minsk as Belarus leader gets birthday call from Putin – Reuters

(Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Belarusians chanting “Happy Birthday, you rat” and flying red-and-white opposition flags gathered near President Alexander Lukashenko’s residence on Sunday as protesters kept up pressure on the veteran leader to resign.

Lukashenko, who turned 66 on Sunday, is struggling to contain weeks of protests and strikes since winning an Aug. 9 election his opponents say was rigged. He denies electoral fraud and has said the protests are backed from abroad.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used a birthday phone call to invite Lukashenko to visit Moscow, a sign of the Kremlin’s willingness to back Lukashenko as he grapples with the unrest and the threat of new Western sanctions.

Protesters streamed into central Minsk, carrying balloons, flowers and flags, in the afternoon. Belarus had a white-red-white flag for a brief period in the early 1990s and it has become a symbol of its anti-government protests.

Passing cars honked their horns in solidarity. Some women lay down in protest in front of a cordon of helmeted security forces.

Protesters then converged on Lukashenko’s residence, which was guarded by security forces carrying shields, and water canon and prisoner vans. A column of armoured military vehicles was seen driving towards the city centre, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

Police made sporadic detentions throughout the day, bundling people into prisoner vans. At least 125 people were detained, Russia’s RIA news agency quoted the interior ministry as saying. Some protesters resisted arrest by what appeared to be plain-clothes officers, a witness said.

Earlier on Sunday, video footage shared by local media showed women dressed in traditional dress laying several pumpkins in front of the main government building, a folk custom intended to signal the rejection of a suitor.

One of the country’s largest mobile operators, A1, said it had reduced the capacity of mobile internet bandwidth at the government’s request.

Belarus is Russia’s closest ex-Soviet ally and its territory is an integral part of Moscow’s European defence strategy. Nevertheless, Lukashenko is seen in Moscow as a prickly partner.

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In the biggest sign yet of Russia’s willingness to intervene to prop up Lukashenko, Putin said on Thursday the Kremlin had set up a “reserve police force” at Lukashenko’s request, although it would be deployed only if necessary.

“It was agreed to hold a meeting in Moscow in the coming weeks,” the Kremlin said in a statement after the leaders’ call on Sunday.

The European Union is gearing up to impose new sanctions on Belarus. Lukashenko, in office for 26 years, threatened on Friday to cut off European transit routes across his country in retaliation.

Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Frances Kerry and Nick Macfie

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crowd Parks

MLB parks to use crowd noise from MLB The Show during games – ESPN

8:31 PM ET

  • Associated Press

Big league players will still hear the roar of the crowd even though the stands will be empty when the baseball season opens next week.

Taking a cue from two European soccer leagues, Major League Baseball will play crowd noise from its official video game through ballpark sound systems during games. Stadium sound engineers will have access to around 75 different effects and reactions, according to MLB, which has provided teams with crowd sounds captured from MLB The Show.

San Diego Studios, a branch of Sony Interactive Entertainment, compiled the noise during games over several seasons.

Clubs started using the sounds during summer camp games and will be able to test them further during exhibition games.

“There was some reticence when you first talk about crowd noise in an empty ballpark because you don’t want to do something that is distracting,” said Chris Marinak, who is MLB’s executive vice president for strategy, technology, and innovation. “It is heard in a way that is natural with the play of the game and on field. The sounds do match what is happening.”

England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga were the first to return to action with crowd sound from video games. The leagues enlisted EA Sports to provide crowd effects they engineered for the FIFA video game franchise. Marinak said MLB talked to multiple companies before deciding to go with Sony.

Baseball is hoping the crowd noises, along with stadium announcers, walk-up music and in-stadium video, will replicate the in-game experience as closely as possible without real fans in the stadium. Some ballparks are also offering fans the chance to buy photo cutouts that will be placed in the stands.

Brewers infielder Eric Sogard said Thursday that the crowd noise did help step up the competition for some guys during intrasquad games.

“You’re still focused on the game, but that noise is very helpful. I could tell the first few scrimmages with pure silence was tough for some guys,” he said. “You could hear the other dugout talking, and it was kind of awkward.”

The sounds will also be audible on radio and television. The Korean baseball league pipes in crowd noise at stadiums so they are not completely silent, but it is barely audible during games aired on ESPN.

Some fans and broadcasters are leery of artificial crowd noise because it takes away a unique opportunity to hear players’ conversations during games this season. Alex Rodriguez noted during an ESPN conference call that the only time fans can hear that type of interaction is if they go to spring training workouts.

ESPN announcer Matt Vasgersian is hopeful there still might be some sort of audio sweet spot to provide a little bit of everything.

“I think it still allows us to capture some of that and still make the viewing experience feel right at home,” he said. “I can’t wait to hear what we hear. Nobody involved in broadcasting baseball wants to compromise strategy. We’re not looking to pry into the playbook, but we do want to hear things that maybe we wouldn’t hear ordinarily.”

The NBA has been in contact with 2K Sports about possibly using its sound library when the league resumes play outside Orlando, Florida.

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