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Armchair Ponderings
Should this be the death knell of winter Olympics?

Guy Geller

Donuts on Cake

Twenty years ago, there was “Skategate” the awarding of the gold medal to Russia when it was apparent to the entire arena that Canada should have won. The Canadian National Post wrote in part “proved that many of the judges who evaluate Olympic figure skating events are true to -rumor and stereotype- either incompetent, biased, corrupt or, very possibly, all three.”

The 2022 Olympics brought up the same question, not only in figure skating but also in snowboarding. Those sports are subjectively judged. Though numerical points are awarded they are awarded by judges without a true objective metric. The winners will smile all the way to the podium while the also ran will have to wait four years for another shot at the medals. The latest of several controversies began after the awarding of the winter Olympics to China by the International Olympic Committee; the main complaint was the “appalling human rights record.”

Four years ago, Russia was banned from participating in any Olympics for 4 years. Russia was charged with government sponsored use of anabolic steroid like chemicals, to enhance the performance of athletes. So, this year Russia as a country did not participate; but miraculously with a change of uniform and a change of name to “Russian Olympic Committee” the same athletes who were not allowed to compete for Russia, were allowed by the International Olympic Committee to compete under the new disguised name.

Then there is the fifteen-year-old Russian skater, skating under the Russian Olympic Committee logo, who tested positive for banned substances in December. The sport’s court of arbitration ruled that she would be able to compete because banning her “would cause her irreparable harm.” She was allowed to compete citing the “exceptional circumstances” because she is a minor. The results of her December tests were not made public until the day after she had competed in a team sport allowing them to win a gold medal. After a furor from athletes and the public; all three medals are being held for the three teams until a final determination can be made. So, right now, nobody gets a medal for that competition. The official statement was that a proper presentation would take place some time in the future.

The first athlete to test positive for steroids was Iran’s only male athlete, an Alpine skier before competing. Two other athletes, both from Ukraine tested positive for doping. We won’t go into those right now.

To help muddy the waters; placing monetary bets on Olympic events was authorized in Las Vegas in 2016. By any chance, could a little payola affect the decisions of less than honorable judges? Or could drug test results be altered causing the expulsion of potential winners? So, I’ll leave opinions up to the readers.

The first Olympics were held in Olympia Greece in 776bc the running race was the only competition until 724bc then several more foot races, several combat sports and equestrian events were introduced. Games of the Olympiad officially began in 1896 in Athens Greece. The French Baron Pierre de Coubertin is credited with being the father of the International Olympic Committee. His intent was that the games should be for amateur athletes of any financial status or race, to compete harmoniously as an example to politicians that competition does not have to end in war.

Winter Olympics were introduced in Chamonix, France in 1924 as the Winter Sports Week, later the name First Olympic Winter Games was given.

Now, in view of questionable events, should there be changes made or even should the winter Olympics take a break? Athletes and would be athletes start training as early as three years of age; they spend thousands of hours and many years learning and then honing their preferred skills. Why punish athletes when the governing bodies and judges are probably responsible for much of the controversy. In my opinion, which no one cares about; something drastic must take place before the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan-Cortina, Italy.

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