Winter Olympics 2002 Winter Olympics 2002


Fool’s Gold

ISU long on spectacle, short on detail in skating controversy

Posted: Wednesday February 13, 2002 9:07 PM
Updated: Wednesday February 13, 2002 11:03 PM

PARK CITY, Utah -- There go the judges...

What, you didn't see them or learn their names?

You didn't hear what they had to say about Monday night's mayhem in Salt Lake City?

Neither did I.

Instead, the nine-judge panel who decided perfection wasn't worth gold, retired to their chambered backrooms (a perfect setting for deals, no?) and kept to themselves.

For the Salt Lake Nine, there will be no medals. That's OK. They've already done plenty of meddling.

As a result, these Winter Games are steeped in as much controversy as competition, as figure skating has its own scandal: skate-gate. Or even worse… Fool's Gold.

Wednesday's press conference by the International Skating Union and its wonderfully expressive chief Ottavio Cinquanta , was a wobbled double axel that landed somewhere between sport and spectacle. While Cinquanta admitted that he was "embarrassed" by what has happened since the pairs figure skating final, he admitted that there was, essentially, no mechanism in place to overturn the judges' decision.

Cinquanta also admitted that "certain allegations" had been filed by an American referee against one of the judges, but Cinquanta would not release any details. Instead, the ISU will investigate. In a press conference that lasted nearly an hour and a half, Cinquanta was booed and jeered at times. I guess subjectivity is part of figure skating coverage, too.

Is that good enough for a sport designed to be subjective in the best sense? A sport based on elements graded by their artistic components, as well as the technical mastery of the competitors?

It wasn't good enough for the Canadian Olympic Association, who sent a letter to the ISU, calling for an independent inquiry into Monday's decision.

Allegations, investigations, questions. At last check, former Enron chief Kenneth Lay said he would be available for questions about this scandal too, but that he would not be able to answer any queries. Thus, he'd fit right in at the Winter Games.

The ice at the rink is never clear. It gets smoothed over and remade, by design, to remove bumps and imperfections. As such, the surface provides no clear reflection. For those surrounding the ice, in figure's skating power structure, that's good news. The image would not be pretty. And it certainly would not be golden.

CNN/Sports Illustrated reporter Tom Rinaldi is in Utah covering the Games.

Related information
SI's Cazeneuve: Figure skating's black eye
SI's Swift: Judgment on the judging in figure skating
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