Skating on Thin Ice

A small victory, following last editorial – the Internet Movie Database has severely slashed the numbers of pop-up adverts. I’d like to think this would be the end of the matter, but it’s not the first time they’ve done it, and I suspect they’ll try again sometime. We’ll be ready for them. 🙂

This is the closest I’ve come to the Olympics; first time I’ve been in the same country where they’re taking place, just a state or two across in Utah. Despite this, I have been largely unmoved by it. This is the Winter Olympics after all, which are the poor relation to begin with, and it was obvious from the opening ceremony that rabid patriotism was going to be the order of the day. I trust the United States will say nothing, if the Chinese use their opening ceremony for political propaganda when the Olympics come to Beijing…

Coverage here has been in strict proportion to American medal chances. Thus, we get a lot of snow-boarding and ice hockey, and precious little curling or biathlon, but until they include basketball on ice, it’s never quite going to capture the imagination. It says a great deal about the Winter Olympics that the major scandal has involved, not drugs (or sex or rock ‘n’ roll), but the judging in the figure-skating competition.

This is a no-brainer. Any sport decided by a series of marks for “artistic impression”…isn’t really a sport at all. As the name suggests, it’s an art-form, and should be treated as one, not included in the Modern Olympics, unless you’re also going to let sculpture, landscape painting and freeform poetry in there too. Frankly, professional wrestling is equally worthy of a place as figure skating – and I’m sure Tonya Harding would be up for both.

Giving gold medals to the Canadians sets a very nasty precedent, and will likely open the floodgates for all manner of other challenges. Boxers, done over by points decision that went against them. The 1972 USA basketball team, who lost to the Soviet Union in the final seconds and refused their silver medals. Any sore loser with an axe to grind will be taking legal advice, for it’s virtually guaranteed that this is all going to end in the courts, and the only real winners will be the lawyers.

Bad decisions are part of any competitive pastime, as anyone knows who’s ever taken part. Sometimes you benefit, sometimes you don’t, but the fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that you have to accept the referee’s decision, no matter how “wrong” it may be. And that’s the case, even in sports with well-defined rules, let alone one where the judges are dealing out victory and defeat by trading in such nebulous concepts as “artistic impression”.

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, universally accepted to mean “Swifter, Higher, Stronger” – you’ll notice there’s no mention of “prettier”, or “artier”. There’s talk of the Olympics wanting to slim down, and they need to get back to basics, limiting themselves to competitive sports, not anything involving subjective assessments. And to anyone who disagrees, I have but two words: synchronised swimming.