Monday, February 15, 2010

Skating judging: still a problem

Don't get me wrong. The Chinese couples were exquisite and deserved to win, although I would have reversed the gold and silver -- as I guess the judges did, but the married couple, Shen and Zhao returning from semi-retirement had a better short-program score. But the German couple, with their several falls and general listlessness, did not deserve the high score they got that earned them the bronze. The real trouble, to my mind, however, came much earlier. The first American couple, Denny and Barrett, skated mistake-free and got 105-something? I didn't think the second American couple, Evora and Ladwig, were better, And then later couples had falls and obvious mistakes and got higher scores -- in some cases much higher scores? I know I'm not a real expert and may have missed things, but they all had to do required elements. Something is rotten in Vancouver.

There were obvious problems in Salt Lake City including obvious favoritism for the judges' countries and allegations of vote-trading. They said they fixed it and maybe they tried, but quite obviously they didn't succeed. As this Slate article explains, what they did was to report the scores anonymously and then randomly select only 7 of the 9 judges' scores. The last was not a bad idea, but what made them think anonymity, which completely eradicates accountability, was going to eliminate favoritism. Instead it encourages it, and Dartmouth economist Eric Zitzewitz, who has studied the results over the last several years with economic tools, finds that home-country bias is now 20% worse.

I'm not saying the Americans should have medaled; both teams did poorly in the short program. But what it looked like to me was that the judges judged on the basis of scores in the short program rather than performance in the long program. Terrible!

1 comment:

Bill said...

I think that anything that's decided by judges isn't a sport.
I'd like to see
a. Olympics divided between "events" with judges and "sports" without.
b. For the Sports it then becomes possible to set absolute standards and for athletes to qualify based on performance rather than performance/nationality. If 26 people qualifying for the 5,000 meters all happen to be Kenyan and none American that's fine by me.