Olympic Games Wave Goodbye To Judged Events...I Wish

Ed CohenCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2010

ATHENS - AUGUST 27:  The judges watch as team Canada performs in the team free routine event on August 27, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at the Synchronised Swimming Pool in the Olympic Sports Complex Aquatic Centre in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images for FINA)
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

From my series of Sports News Stories I’d Like to See. And soon.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The days when Olympic athletes and spectators waited anxiously for judges to decide whether a performance was medal-worthy are over.

In a move considered long overdue by many sports analysts—most notably Ed Cohen of the blog The Sporting Iconoclast —the International Olympic Committee voted today to drop all judged events from future Olympic Games.

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.

Like the Olympics, the Peformics will be held every four years. The first games are scheduled for the summer of the next off year between the summer and winter games. A site for the inaugural Performics has yet to be selected.

“We envision the Performics as a catalyst for international fellowship and human achievement very much in the spirit of the modern Olympic Games,” said IOC President Jacques Rogge. “Starting as they will with events with long and distinguished traditions, there can be little doubt of success.”

The removal of the judged events addresses several thorny issues the IOC faced, not the least of which were allegations over the years of rampant judging bias based on nationality.

There was also the increasingly uneasy mix of traditional time and distance events like running and swimming alongside more recently developed “freestyle” events like half-pipe snowboarding, in which the goal is to impress judges by stringing together stylish jumps, flips, and spins.

“The Olympic Motto, 'Citius, Altius, Fortius '—Latin for Swifter, Higher, Stronger—says nothing about 'fancier,'” Rogge said.

However, the IOC president insisted that the change was not meant to disparage the athletic abilities of competitors in the judged events. He said the IOC's intention was to draw a clearer distinction between “objectively measured athletic capacity” and art, "which can only be subjectively assessed."

“The performance arts have given us some of the most gifted athletes in history, people like (ballet dancer Mikhail) Baryshnikov. Our Olympic champions in figure skating, diving and the freestyle events are heirs to that legacy. The Performics will provide a suitable venue for competition in the artistic realm.”

In addition to men’s and women’s gymnastics, other current Summer Games events relocating to the Performics include synchronized swimming and diving.

Absorbing the judged events of the Winter Games proved not as easy. Men's and women's figure skating and ice dancing are held in arenas, so they can be contested during a summer Performics. Not so for half-pipe snowboarding and all of the freestyle skiing events. For the time being, the IOC said, those events will be left out of both the Olympics and Performics.

One exception is freestyle skicross, which is timed, not judged, so it will remain part of the winter games.

Ski-jumping, mostly a distance competition, will continue in the Winter Olympic minus the element of style points for landings.

The fates of summer games’ martial arts events boxing, wrestling, and judo remain in limbo. In a statement, the IOC said a committee has been established to study whether the sports should remain part of the games. All three involve judging, but the judge's role is essentially to count punches landed and other scoring maneuvers.

The IOC said a more transparent and objective scoring system would be needed for the sports to remain part of the new objective Olympics.

The sports will not be considered for inclusion in the Performics, the IOC said.