Ice dancing.Posted: January 22, 2010
With the Winter Olympics coming up there is a lot of attention to events that typically don’t occupy the public consciousness.
Today I saw this picture and decided someone had to say something.
These people are the favorites to win the gold medal in ice dancing in Vancouver. Their costumes are part of their routine which is a tribute to the culture of Australia’s Aborigines How on earth did they convince themselves this was a good idea?
Actually though, this strangeness is a symptom of a larger problem – the intrusion of something which is not really a sport into the Olympics.
Sports are contests of skill which are not really subjective. While they may have officials, those officials are not judges who directly decide the outcome of the contest. Ice dancing is a contest of skill which is completely subjective. The officials are judges, what they say completely determines the outcome of the contest.
Lets extend the discussion further. Suppose we place the style of determining winning of ice dancing on other winter sports? Let’s look at downhill skiing, hockey and luge.
Lets say the skier at left rockets from the top to the bottom of the mountain in less than two minutes. She is very impressive. Her closest opponent is a full second slower. Under the current system, our example skier is the clear and uncontested winner. But applying the ice dancing standard, we find that the second skier wins. Why? Because while she was quite fast, our rapid skier did not smile and it was difficult to determine her motivation for going vast. The skier that was a little slower was radiant as she sped through the course and communicated her bond with the snow that allowed her to slide down the mountain. She is the winner.
Is that fair? No, not really. Another example, hockey.
The 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team won the gold medal by beating powerhouse teams from Russia and then Finland. How did they do this? They scored more points than the teams they beat by putting the puck in the goal the most. But what if the US team never made it to the finals because their uniforms did not represent the indigenous culture of the nation as well as the one worn by the Soviets?
Now we move on to what may be the silliest looking Olympic sport – the Luge. In the Luge, competitors put on a helmet, a full body condom, lie flat on a heavy sled with sharp runners and slide down a long ice chute. As the rules stand now, whoever makes it to the bottom of the chute in the shortest time, without soiling themselves, is the Gold Medalist, followed by the next two fastest people as the Silver and Bronze Medalists.
Should we or could we accept the winner being changed because he failed to point his toe correctly? Or because his pace moving down the track did not properly match the tempo of the music he selected?
My examples are clearly ridiculous. Do you know what else is ridiculous? That picture at the top of the page and the fact that it is lumped in with the category of sport.
Ice dancers are talented people. I can’t even stand up on skates. I’ve no prayer of doing what they do. I respect their talent, but their talent is more in the category of art, not sport. There are competitions in all sorts of artistic endeavors – dance, music, sculpture, writing.
When victory turns on the subjective judgement of people on points of artistic merit, the realm of sport is not where that competition belongs.
Oh yeah, to my large Aborigine audience, rise up and let the world know how completely silly these people look to you.