The Olympics and The Silliness of Judged Sports

Spoiler alert: If you’ve not yet watched the coverage of women’s gymnastics from the Olympics you may not want to continue.

If you HAVE seen the coverage, or at least the results, then you already know that reigning world champion Jordan Wieber failed to qualify for the all-around individual championship. Although her score was fourth best amongst all competitors she was third best on the US team and ran afoul of a rule that says that only the top two from any country can advance to the individual competition.


So, you’re telling me that it isn’t about pitting the top gymnasts in the world against each other, it’s about putting on some sort of global ratings show?
Some sort of  “let’s be fair to those countries whose athletes made it here but aren’t as good” or “wouldn’t want one country to dominate” kind of thing?

I really don’t have a problem with it if Wieber gets beat in the semis on the track or in the pool, measured on a objective scale where the tape or the clock doesn’t lie. But to miss out by less that .3 because some judge decided, even subconsciously, that “as world champion I expect more from her” is kind of sad.

Yeah, yeah, they all know the rules going in but that doesn’t make the rules intelligent. Especially the whole, lets be fair to everyone, thing. I’m starting to wonder if the same folks who created the BCS weren’t somehow connected to this approach to gymnastics.

That’s why I am in favor of eliminating all judged sports from the Olympics. Granted we’d lose a good source of humor fodder by not being able to refer to the scores from the Russian judge but I’m willing to sacrifice.

Or…if you’re really in love with gymnastics…and figure skating…then let’s use some advanced technology. It would be simple matter to include small sensors in costumes and uniforms that would allow a digitized assessment of an athletes movement. In fact you could eliminate name and country this way allowing “judges” to assess without prejudice.

Eliminating one of the worlds best from competing because some shriveled bint decided to tick off a tenth of a point based on the position of her toes is ridiculous. It moves sports into the realm of beauty pageant. I think that’s plain silly.

What are your thoughts on judged sports in the Olympics?

7 responses to “The Olympics and The Silliness of Judged Sports

  1. To think that judges are totally unbiased is naive. I watched some of the gymnastics, including watching one of the Japanese coaches with a fist full of US $100 bills at the judges booth. I heard later that they have to pay for the “privilege” of protesting a judges decision. It only takes a tenth here and there to eliminate one from the running or elevate a favorite up in the standings. Subjective scoring from flawed, biased humans has no place in sporting events.

    Your post gets a 9.8 from this judge!
    I had to deduct something…for the typos. 😉

  2. While I agree that judged sports are quite frustrating at times, I am not sure how they can be avoided at this point. I actually remember a time I quit watching one event (I think it was figure skating) because of the clear bias of the judges. Perhaps technology will balance this one day. I do know for sure that I simply do not enjoy watching the judged events quite as much as the other events. I write this as I sit and watch synchronized diving, a judged sport. Is there as much of a problem in diving as in other sports? Just wondering if this is an across-the-board issue or if maybe there are some judged sports where this is not so prominent of an issue.

  3. Are you willing to eliminate all “sports” in which one individual makes a subjective judgment while enforcing the rules of the game? Is soccer, where an official can suddenly make a seldom used call and dramatically change the outcome of a contest (Canada vs. USA) any fairer than diving, where there are seven judges and the high and low scores are eliminated to eliminate bias and find the appropriate three scores for the dive. You will need to get rid of soccer, volleyball, tennis, boxing, badminton, hockey, handball, etc., all of which have officials that make “judgments.” There are very sports that can totally eliminate human interaction with the contest and there is inherent bias in all sports; it is the nature of the beast. If you choose to exclude one sport or another, then you are basing inclusion on your own subjective judgment.

    • Great point Wood!

      I would submit though that although an official CAN effect the outcome of a soccer match there are many many matches where the subjectivity of the official does not come into play. In adjudicated sports like diving or figure skating or gymnastics the outcome is solely dependent on the judgment of the officials. That’s not subjective on my part.

      The NFL, Professional Tennis, Hockey, all have gone to using replay to assist in making sure the incidents where an official makes a mistake are overturned…soccer will probably follow at least with goal line technology. I’m suggesting something similar by experimented with at least.

      I find it especially disturbing when commentators in the winter games say that ice skating officials don’t just judge what they see in the performance but what they’ve seen in practice as well. What?!?!

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