A flawed, inaccessible event: The Winter Olympics

There are two main flaws with the Winter Olympics. The first is the judged sports and the second is the sports themselves.

As far as the judged sports go, once again, there is suspicion of collusion in figure skating. The Russians and the French (again) are rumored to have an agreement to help their skaters out. Regardless if true, it casted a pall over the games. But it’s an easy fix. Any sport with judges needs to be eliminated from the Olympics. If I need and ‘expert’ to tell me who won, well that’s just stupid. The Olympic credo is ‘Higher Faster Stronger’ not ‘Who does that person think is Higher Faster Stronger.’

After the ‘slopestyle’ event, the winner American Sage Kotsenburg, wasn’t even clear on what the judges wanted.

“I don’t know, it’s crazy here.” He said. “I don’t really know what they want to see. I need to re-evaluate, I guess.” And that was the winner! Holy crap! Four years of training and no one knows what the judges want to see?!

Too often we hear of athletes – who’ve dedicated their lives to a particular series of seconds or minutes – whose results are decided by a few rich, elitist, out-of-touch, middle-aged people who may or may not be on the take. How ridiculous. A ski jumper lands with his/her arm at the wrong angle and gets penalized. A woman’s costume has a feather fall off of it during the performance and gets docked a point. (That really happened.)

It wouldn’t be that hard to switch these subjective-based sports to objective-based. Especially with today’s technology. Figure skaters win if they a) spin faster – put an accelerometer on them to read the data – and b) jump higher – preferably over barrels. (They used to do that on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.)  For pairs figure skating it’s really simple. Whichever man throws his woman partner the farthest and highest wins.

Anything with snowboards or skis can easily be defined by speed and/or height. Create a course with a series of jumps and (literally) hoops to jump through. Fastest one down wins. Ski jumping? The easiest of them all. You jump farthest, you win. For goodness sake, the athlete is hurling him/herself in the air, down a mountain the length of a football field for our enjoyment. It’s silly to suggest that even though he/she jumped the farthest he/she didn’t win because his/her style wasn’t that good.

When we were kids we’d get towed behind the snowmobile on Super Slider Snow Skates and go over jumps to see who could fly the farthest. We measured our distance by the marks we made in the snow, be they ruts, holes or blood droppings. There was no disputing the results.

There’s no protesting in curling because everyone watching – and I mean everyone – knows who won when the game is over. There is no trying to figure it out. “Well that’s a nice double take-out by Jennifer Jones but her scrunchy doesn’t match the curling rock so we’re going to have to take one of her rocks out of play.”

No one had to tell me the Canadians won the Gold Medal at the Vancouver Olympics. “Great goal by Sidney Crosby but did you see how the outer edge of his skate didn’t follow a geometric arch? That goal is worth only 1/2 a point.”

Imagine, the end of the Gold Medal hockey game. Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin sitting in the ‘Kiss and Cry” booth, looking up at the scoreboard and waiting for an IOC member to tell them who won.

I hate movies that end ambiguously. The ones where each person watching it might have a different interpretation of how it might have ended. Like Castaway with Tom Hanks. Did he end up hooking up with the Fed Ex Angel Wing lady or did he go back to his wife? I shouldn’t have to figure it out. I just paid $12. You tell me!

Same with the Olympics. They are too darn expensive and too fleeting for any event to be decided by a decimal point based on the mood of a person who is, as a matter of course and by birth, going to be biased towards a particular country.

There’s a reason that major league sports – hockey, football, baseball, basketball etc. and their athletes – make all the money. They are finitely decided. You can bet on them. That’s right, gambling is a big deal, vis-à-vis, professional sports. Imagine placing a bet – a la the SuperBowl – on the French to win in pairs dance. Nobody would take that action. There’s also a reason why ex-gymnastics, figure skating, synchronized swimming and trampoline stars are your neighbourhood real estate agents and car salespeople.

The other major flaw is the sports themselves. They’re not accessible to the average person. Don’t believe me? How many slopestyle snowboarders do you know? None. (And I bet until a week ago you’d never even heard of slopestyle.)  That’s because there are precisely 11 slopestyle boarders in all of Canada and you don’t know any of them.  Sticking metal ‘stair’ railings into sides of mountains is not natural. At least skateboarders come across this feature naturally beside schools and office buildings. When is the last time you saw a perfectly machined 50 foot grinding rail sticking out of the snow?

Say what you want about curling, at least it’s accessible. The average Canadian can show up at their local rink and throw a few rocks with friends over beers. You can’t say that about ski jumping. “Hey Dave, I’ll pick you up in 10 minutes. A bunch of us are heading over to the Olympic park to jump 100 meters in the air on skis. And then go for wings.” Same goes for luge and bobsleigh. Just expensive and dumb.


So I’ve narrowed it down for you. Accessible and finite. It’s that easy. Hockey, curling, speed skating (but on hockey sized rinks with hockey skates) and downhill skiing all get a pass. Figure skating, any skiing or snow boarding that needs welders or judges get a fail.