Sunday, August 31, 2008

Olympics #4: Blue

judge: (noun) a person appointed to decide in any competition, contest, or matter at issue; authorized arbiter.

Yes, I know it's been a week since the Olympics ended and I still haven't finished my Olympics blogs, but it's been a busy week, what with a new job and all. But I still want to finish this, so here goes...

In Beijing, it was mentioned several times about the judges being the ones in the blue jackets at the judging events (hence the "blue" relevancy). With any judged competition, there will be unhappy competitors, questions, challenges and downright disregard for how the judges award their points and who is the eventual winner. With the last Olympics, it feels a bit like this started right away.

Canadian gymnast Kyle Shewfelt competed on the first day of the Games and, as the defending gold medalist, carried some heavy expectations. But he failed to advance to the finals and both he and his coach questioned the judges. Right out of the gates, the judging was questioned. And it kept going throughout the games and not just with the Canadians.

Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian threw his bronze medal on the mat because he wasn't happy with the way his match was judged. He was later stripped of his medal for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Ivett Gonda (Canadian) was favoured to win a medal in taekwondo, but lost her first match and lodged a protest over the judging.

U.S. boxer Demitrius Andrade blamed the judges for his loss, saying he was landing plenty of punches. And as a result of judging during the Games, the International Boxing Association is investigating manipulation of bouts.

In women's gymnastics, silver-medalist Nastia Liukin (U.S.) and her father/coach were confused when she won the silver, despite tying for first with Chinese gymnast He Kexin; the Liukins blamed an Australian judge for being biased against Nastia.

There was judging controversy in fencing, dressage in equestrian, and shooting.

Even Fidel Castro weighed in, blaming corrupt judges for Cuba's poor showing at the Games.

Of course, this is nothing new. As long as winners are decided by other people and not the clock or the final score, there will be problems. I was discussing this with a friend and her opinion was that any judged sport should not be allowed in the Olympics because it can be corrupted and biased and unfair. Like any controversy - be it about doping, the age of gymnasts, CGI fireworks or judging - it gets me down because I'd like to believe the athletes, who have worked so hard to get to where they are, can win and lose on their own merits. I'd also like to believe that David Copperfield is a real magician.

As long as there are judged sports in the Olympics, there will be problems with the judging. Investigate and change rules and have meetings and do whatever makes you happy. When it's up to one group of people to pass judgment on another group, there will always be unhappy endings.

Up next: White - um, still working on this one.

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