Tuesday, August 24, 2004

You Want Fries (or Consistency) With That

I want to like the Olympics. I really do. I want to be able to flick on my TV after supper and watch these incredible athletes go about their sports without having to deal with politics (and I like politics). I want to be able to watch the games for the sport not for the controversy. Unfortunately, just like the winter games in '02, we are now faced with a judging controversy that is threatening to interfere with your and my enjoyment of the games.

"We do not change scores." - the International Gymnastics Federation. "We do not change scores." - the International Olympic Committee.

Watch what you say folks.

At this point you all know the story: Paul Hamm of the US was erroneously awarded the gold medal in the men's all around gymnastics final. The South Korean should have won. A fact made public when it was discovered that three judges made scoring errors that put Hamm in the lead. Add to the controversy the discovery that one of the judges is from Ohio - the same state where Hamm trains.

Chapter 2 of the story. Canadian, Kyle Shewfelt misses the podium in the men's vault final due to a scoring impossibility that puts Romainian Marion Dragulescu in the Bronze position. In interviews after the event, two officials from the IGF both stated that Dragulescu score of 9.375 on the vault where he fell, was mathematically impossible. His start value was low and the required deductions would have given him about a 9.1. Average that out with the first flawless vault and his score should have placed him fourth. The Canadian coaches protest and are turned back with the comment "We don't change scores". The technical director for the IGF that turned the protest down was Romainian.

I could handle both situations. It's understandable. Once a score is placed on the board, it stands. The judges decision is final.

Skip to yesterday.

Ivan Ivankov - world god of the high bar - pulls out the routine of the night. The judges hammer him for a score. A routine that according to commentators and experts on air, should have scored a high 9.8 (ish) gets a 9.37. The crowd goes insane - booing, catcalls, shouting etc - for about 15 minutes. The technical director (the same Romainian that turned away the Canadian coaches' protest), goes to have a meeting with the two judges that score "wrong" and has them change the score!! This is not 24 hours after stating publicly that "We do not change scores."
The same thing happened in 2002 in figure skating (Sale, Peletier and the Russians) where a score was changed and the Canadians ended up getting a gold.

When is subjective judging going to end? Or at least when will we see some consistancy in the application of the rules. If the IGF and the OIC are going to have a "judges decision is final" policy then they should damn well stick by it. Don't bow to public pressure or politics or national loyalty. Apply the rules fairly to everybody.

At the opening of every games, the athletes all take the Olympic pledge. Maybe there should be a pledge for the judges. The way things are going now it's not fair for the athletes that are judges improperly and it's not fair that some athletes are asked to give back or share medals when other's are not.

Tonight's coverage includes the women's' 100 meter hurdles final and cycling pursuit finals. At least there's a clear winner and no controversy. Hey... is that a syringe in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?


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