Games' Golden Opportunity

The best way to view the Olympics figure-skating controversy is to see it as part of ongoing reform in the Games. The quick resolution - awarding the Canadian pair duplicate gold medals - never would have happened in the recent past.

The International Olympic Committee's new president, Belgian Jacques Rogge, was determined to move promptly. He didn't want yet another cloud of scandal hanging over the 2002 Games. His response reinforced the idea that the Olympic competition is for athletes, not nations.

Of course the resolution doesn't resolve everything. The probe continues into just what kind of pressure, from what sources, was brought to bear on a French judge to taint her vote. Nationalist sensitivities are still raw.

And what about the precedent? Should past judging fiascos - some of which were much more blatant than the Salt Lake incident - be revisited, with medals redistributed?

On the positive side, the opportunity is suddenly at hand to clean out another Olympics closet - the judging practices for sports like figure skating. Subjectivity is inherent when artistic merit is being judged. National biases are likely to come into play. But practical steps can be taken, such as removing the selection of judges from national sports federations (where nationalist feelings often reign) and choosing panels of judges right before a competition to reduce the chances of collusion.

Another positive facet of these events is the behavior of the athletes themselves. The Canadian pair, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, have been gracious in their comments about the Russian gold medalists, Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, and vice versa. The Olympic spirit is clearly in good hands with them.

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