2010-03-04 / Sam Bari

Not all sports are Olympic

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

The last two weeks were nothing short of spectacular. The world witnessed one of the most amazing Winter Olympics in the history of the program.

The Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” — Latin for “Swifter, Higher, Stronger,” reigned supreme. The 2010 Winter Olympic athletes “raised the bar” so to speak, elevating the standard to which future Olympians must aspire if they want to be competitive.

Fans witnessed ski jumpers launching themselves from slippery ramps to fly farther than the length of a football field before gently landing and expertly gliding to a stop. Figure skaters executed stunts that staggered the imagination.

Contestants twirled, jumped and spun in the air as they gracefully sped down the ice with little regard for their safety. One small miscalculation and they could have fallen and smashed headlong into a wall at 40-plus miles per hour without protection.

Bobsledders rocketed down runs at more than 90 mph wrapped in nothing more than lightweight fiberglass shells. The downhill skiers, unprotected, exceeded 60 mph in their efforts to be the fastest to descend nearly vertical slopes.

The speed skaters, snowboarders and freestyle skiers also put their lives at risk without hesitation to give record-setting performances. Much to the delight of fans with eyes glued to television sets around the globe, the participants reached new heights in their efforts to be the best of the best.

Despite the magnificent performances of the finest athletes in the world, some people are disgruntled because their “sport” is not included in the Olympic program.

Snowmobile advocates are quick to state their displeasure because snowmobiling is not an Olympic event. The International Olympic Committee doesn’t consider snowmobiling an athletic endeavor. In the Summer Olympics, some think wave running, car racing and rodeo events should be among the contests.

I lean towards agreeing with the IOC concerning car racing. Somehow, I fail to see that actual athleticism is required to make a few hundred left turns at high speeds in an engine-powered vehicle. The same goes for the snowmobiles and wave runners. They’re just annoying.

However, some of the rodeo events might qualify if the scoring were different. For instance, bull riding could be an event if the bulls were involved in the scoring process.

The rules for cowboys riding bulls in the rodeo only include the rider as a participant. If the rider stays on the bucking bull for eight seconds, he gets points. If not, he gets zip. The bull, however, gets nothing, no matter how well he performs.

If the bull were given points for ridding himself of the rider in less than eight seconds, the event would be much more equitable. That is an important point to the IOC. Every event must be fair to all participants.

I see nothing wrong with bulls standing on the podium to receive their medals just like all the other athletes. Perhaps the bull’s trainer could be included in the awards ceremony, thus preserving the human element in both sides of the contest.

The same rules could apply for the bronco riders. Horses have long been a part of Olympic tradition. The ancient Olympics were famous for their chariot races.

If the horse tosses the rider before the buzzer goes off, “Trigger” should go to the podium. It’s only fair.

If those events were instated, I don’t see how calf roping could be denied. If the calf dodges the rope and makes the horse and rider look foolish, why shouldn’t he have his shot at the medal ceremony?

Nonetheless, more fans than those whose sports are not included will soon be disgruntled. On Feb. 7, the IOC voted to eliminate all “judged” sports as Olympic events.

The IOC announced that the judged events, which include the popular figure skating and gymnastics competitions, will be transferred to a new Olympic-style festival to be called the Olympic Performance Games, or “Performics” for short.

IOC President Jacque Rogge said, “The Olympic motto, ‘Swifter, Higher, Stronger,’ doesn’t say anything about ‘fancier.’”

The removal of the judged events addresses a particularly thorny subject that has plagued the IOC over the years. Rampant judging bias based on nationality has been a contentious issue.

Returning to traditional contests based on ‘earned’ scores instead of ‘judged’ scores will relieve the committee from dealing with subjective decisions.

The Olympics could possibly settle on a system we can all understand — a novel concept.

Return to top