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Are the Olympics Doomed?

Have you ever been to a little league baseball game, a junior soccer league game, or other sporting event where the young and innocent play their hearts out for the joy of the game?  Often times winning or losing is not nearly as important as whether the after game festivities include burgers or pizza.  Game playing is an important developmental opportunity for children of all ages.  We learn about being good sports.  We learn to treat others with respect.  We learn that a bully that stands alone is no match for a coordinated team effort.  We learn there is no respect for a cry-baby, a sore loser or a an arrogant winner.

Then, the parents show up.  Loving and supportive, they kiss our ouch-ies, soothe our disappointment, and rejoice in our triumphs.  But, then there's that other kid's mom or dad.  Maybe they were beaten as a child.  Maybe their own dog bit them when they were young.  I don't know.  You know the type - yelling at the ump when a call goes badly against their precious offspring,  threatening the little tyke that bumped into their child and knocked him or her down, protesting the outcome of the match long after the kids are loaded up in the van with visions of milkshakes dancing in their heads.

Sure, there's the occasional bad call.  And, if the rules of the game allow for a correction or reversal following a request for review, then make the correction and continue with play.  If the rules don't allow such corrections, then we have three choices:  1)  Understand that by engaging in the game we agree to the rules as stated and get over it.  2) Lobby to have the rules changed through official processes outside of the game. 3) go play another game.

Umpires, judges, referees and other game officials are in a position of power.  Their position is equivalent to that of a judge and jury in a court of law.  The responsibility lies with that individual.  Corruption at this level cannot be tolerated.  Corruption in sports officiating makes a mockery of the effort of the participants.  Mistakes can and do occur.  Don't confuse an honest mistake for corruption.

Now, to the Olympics.  Yes, I believe there appears to be history of deal-making and vote swapping in the world of ice skating for a long time.  Subjectively judged events such as figure skating (individual, pairs, dancing) are notoriously difficult.   That's why there are multiple judges.  The effect is to average out some of the subjectivity and come to a reasonable, if not perfect, consensus.  To the credit of the sport, swift action was taken and an obvious error was corrected.  Allegations of corruption have definitely damaged the credibility of the sport.  Bold and sweeping corrective measures will repair the credibility more quickly than a media parade of whining and bickering skating officials.

So, shame on ANY official that allows their political position get in the way of fairly dealing with the participants of the event.  These people have invested a huge portion of their life energy into developing their skills and talents to the highest level of perfection.  Again, corruption cannot be tolerated at this level.

OK, that leaves us with the 'parents' standing on the sidelines.  Give me a break, your whole country is going to boycott the next Olympics because a call didn't go your way?  Fine!  Please, go play in your own sandbox.  Throw your own little party.  Give all your athletes gold medals.  Invite the other dissenters to participate in your games.  That way you'll feel better when you beat them, too.  And, if anyone complains about corruption, just throw them out of your country.  It's really sad, you know:...  It's no wonder so many of your athletes train in our country!

UPDATE (09/27/2004) - Another Olympic Games are in the bag. Paul Hamm takes his lawyers to Switzerland this week in an attempt to hang onto the gold medal he was awarded in Greece. It's over, folks. No wonder the Romans turned to gladiatorial combat - It's much easier to tell who the winner is...

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