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ISSUE 115 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/22/2002

Rigging the Rings

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 22, 2002

Are the Olympics rigged? Last weeks doubles figure skating fiasco, in which a French judge felt "pressured" to give lower marks to a Canadian couple, has sparked an Olympic-sized controversy. In fact, the governing council of the International Skating Union decided to replace its current judging system. Soon there will be a new system in which scores are taken from only some of the judges, who will be picked at random. Despite the constant Salt Lake broadcasting playing in the Pause, let alone my sports-obsessed friends, I didn't even watch the Olympics until after Tuesday. The first thing I saw was that cute Canadian couple cuddling and comforting each other on a couch in front of a fire with some commentator. "We were all rooting for the Canadians, eh," said Senior Adam Bad Wound. He merely echoed everyones sentiments, except for maybe the Russians and a certain French judge. In a newspaper interview Monday, the French judge at the center of the dispute denied that any deals were made and said she falsely implicated skating officials from her own country out of fear. The judge is Marie-Reine Le Gougne, who allegedly favored the Russian couple in last week's pairs skate to ensure a gold medal for the French in the current ice dancing competition. The dispute was settled by giving the silver medalists, Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, their own gold medals Sunday night. The judging of figure skating has long been a subject of controversy, with allegations of favoritism and trade-offs between the judges of various competing countries. This is the third Games running where it has come under the spotlight, but previously the problem area was ice dancing. Last year, senior International Olympic Committee Official Richard Pound called for ice dancing to be dropped from the Olympic program because of the stream of controversies. The Globe and Mail newspaper ran a web site poll asking whether judged events should be banned from the Olympics  and 71 percent agreed. First-year Karl Helvig is part of that 71 percent. "[The Olympics] are good stuff this year," he said, "but it seems like they are getting less Olympic...[it used to be] a bunch of people who got together and did stuff that was all guts and glory. A lot of the sports are getting subjective now. It's just not the same as simply, who can ski the fastest, and shoot stuff while doing it? Who runs fastest, who throws farthest? Simply, who is an Olympian?" Helvig's point is that since figure-skating is a different kind of competition, and since there is no resolute, inarbitrary way to decide what makes one athlete better than another, perhaps the sport should be taken out altogether. When French skier Christel Pascal-Saioni was asked whether the scandal affected her preparations for Wednesday's slalom, she said she was "happy to not be involved in a sport with judges." The International Skating Union was founded in 1892. Because competitions could be held indoors, figure skating was added to the Olympic program for the 1908 Summer Games. Figure skating became an official Olympic Winter Games sport at the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix. The singles and pairs events have been part of every Olympic winter program. Ice dancing debuted at the 1976 Games in Innsbruck, Austria, and has been a part of the Olympic program ever since. Personally, I don't mind things like figure skating and gymnastics and artsy-fartsy events in the Olympics, but I do support the revamping of the scoring system. Hopefully they'll just realize that it's not about the scores and medals anyway, but about the competition itself, and representing your country and yourself as well as you can.

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