Think Olympic Judges are Biased? They Might Be.

VGThuy

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Found an interesting article on NBC News about figure skating judging and bias with limited data research from Dartmouth economics professor Eric Zitzewitz:

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/w...ys-they-n844886?icid=today_hp_NBCtopheadlines

NBC News found that the pool of 164 judges eligible for PyeongChang's figure-skating events, which start Friday, Feb. 9 (Feb. 8 in U.S. time zones), includes:

  • Thirty-three judges — roughly a fifth of the total — who hold or have held leadership positions in their national skating federations;
  • An Italian judge who was sanctioned for peeking at another judge's scores in 2010;
  • A Russian judge who has been sanctioned for violations twice, once for signaling his preferred order of finish to another judge by tapping with his feet, the other time for talking to another judge in Russian;
  • The Russian judge who Sotnikova hugged at Sochi;
  • A Korean judge who told a Korean newspaper prior to Sochi that she would make sure skaters from her country, like Yuna Kim, were "not disadvantaged."
All of them could end up judging skaters from their own countries, and there is statistical evidence that they could then inflate their compatriots' scores.
 

Debbie S

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I take it for granted that any one country's judges are going to score their skaters higher than average. What I worry about are deals that involve multiple skaters (either promoting or dumping) at multiple events, a la SLC in 2002.
 

Simone411

To Boldly Explore Figure Skating Around The World
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I take it for granted that any one country's judges are going to score their skaters higher than average. What I worry about are deals that involve multiple skaters (either promoting or dumping) at multiple events, a la SLC in 2002.
In the video I shared, the controversy at 2002 Olympics was discussed.
 

Skittl1321

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My question about this article- was it written by a relative of Chloe Katz? She has an individual photo (not even in skates... just a headshot at a rink; so it doesn't seem like a "find a figure skating stock photo) and she and Joseph Lynch are shown in a lift.

How random. But nice exposure for them.
 

BlueRidge

AYS's snark-sponge
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  • Have the International Skating Union choose judges based on merit, instead of letting individual countries decide who to send to the Olympics.
  • Professionalize judging. Most skating judges are unpaid volunteers.
This is kind of like suggesting that we create world peace by ending all war. How about suggesting a way to make this happen, smarties? Good luck with that.
 

misskarne

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Oh look, it's another Adelina-bash article.

A fifth of judges hold some kind of leadership position, but still the only one anyone cares about is that oh no the Russian official was married - married I tell you! - to a person in a leadership position!!!!

Jesus Christ I still can't believe it - an overexcited seventeen year old who just won the biggest competition of her life and is running around hugging everybody is apparently absolute evidence of judging corruption.
 

VGThuy

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Outside the Sotnikova stuff, do you think the article has any merit? What about the data collected? I know the idea that judges from one country will give a boost to their own skaters is a fact of life for us fans, but I'm sure for outsiders who already are suspicious of figure skating scoring, that in of itself may be enough to think this sport is a farce.
 

sap5

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Outside the Sotnikova stuff, do you think the article has any merit? What about the data collected? I know the idea that judges from one country will give a boost to their own skaters is a fact of life for us fans, but I'm sure for outsiders who already are suspicious of figure skating scoring, that in of itself may be enough to think this sport is a farce.

But do the outsiders really care if it is? The fact is that figure skating is a marquee event for NBC, and if anything, haven't the scandals only added to the allure? So long the outsiders keep tuning in, there really isn't an incentive to change anything.
 

BlueRidge

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Outside the Sotnikova stuff, do you think the article has any merit? What about the data collected? I know the idea that judges from one country will give a boost to their own skaters is a fact of life for us fans, but I'm sure for outsiders who already are suspicious of figure skating scoring, that in of itself may be enough to think this sport is a farce.

It would be easy to fix the biased judging in figure skating as the writers say, hire professional paid judges who are not attached to national federations.

Since figure skating doesn't have the wherewithal to do that, its dependent on volunteers and on national federations to provide them. So there is politics and bias. Yet it isn't a farce and it is a beautiful sport.

Bleah to those who just want a perfect world.

ETA: and it is LAUGHABLE that this issue primarily comes up when "outsiders" pay attention because of the OLYMPICS, which are oh so pure and good. :rolleyes:
 

Ohyes

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What a pointless obvious article. Even my mom who only knows about the legends in FG and only watches the sport every 4 years knows the judging can be biased.
 

gkelly

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It would be easy to fix the biased judging in figure skating as the writers say, hire professional paid judges who are not attached to national federations.

How would it be easy?

The idea of professional judges has been floated around for at least 20 years. By people within the ISU as well as outsiders I believe.

But how would it work, even if money were no object? Where would those professional paid judges come from? How would they learn to judge? What would be their obligations to the ISU in terms of time commitment? What levels of competition would still need to rely on volunteers?

Since figure skating doesn't have the wherewithal to do that, its dependent on volunteers and on national federations to provide them. So there is politics and bias.
Yet it isn't a farce and it is a beautiful sport.

Yes.
 

BlueRidge

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I was being facetious when I said it would be "easy." The outsiders always suggest impossible solutions for the imperfect aspects of figure skating. I find it annoying.
 

MacMadame

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How many other sports have professional referees or judges?
Olympic sports or all sports? Because the professional sports I'm familiar tend to have paid judges/refs/officials. There is still a lot more chumminess between officials and the athletes and coaches and such than you'd expect. These are small worlds and that leads to a certain amount of inbreeding, so to speak.
 

sap5

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It's so easy to think of the judging to be biased, political, etc., and I think a huge part of it comes from the figure skating world itself. Ideally, judging is done by people who love the sport, who judge with the view of showing skaters where they can improve, and that is what happens after the competition when skaters get feedback. But if the people within the skating world themselves don't believe this, then what to do? When you get Carol Lane saying "well, it's Russia!", Bobrova saying she can't understand the judging, or Soloviev saying that he'd never want to be a judge because he "know how they treat the judges who did not forgive someone or put not those marks that were expected" is disheartening.

http://fs-gossips.com/ekaterina-bobrova-and-dmitri-soloviev-our-sport-is-very-subjective/

ETA: Sorry -- don't know why the above has strikethrough marks, but can't figure out how to get rid of them.
 

overedge

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Baseball has professional referees (umpires) IIRC, at least at the major league level. They're paid by Major League Baseball and they have their own union.

I know I've said this before, but if the ISU was even semi-serious about punishing misbehaving judges - as in giving meaningful penalties and banning repeat offenders for life - it would get a lot less of this kind of criticisum.
 
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Erin

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Oh look, it's another Adelina-bash article.

A fifth of judges hold some kind of leadership position, but still the only one anyone cares about is that oh no the Russian official was married - married I tell you! - to a person in a leadership position!!!!

Jesus Christ I still can't believe it - an overexcited seventeen year old who just won the biggest competition of her life and is running around hugging everybody is apparently absolute evidence of judging corruption.

I am perfectly fine with the Sotnikova win, but I think that this was an excellent example of a judge in an event being too close to one of the skaters being judged.

Is it possible your own biases are influencing you in this situation?
 

Aussie Willy

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But do the outsiders really care if it is? The fact is that figure skating is a marquee event for NBC, and if anything, haven't the scandals only added to the allure? So long the outsiders keep tuning in, there really isn't an incentive to change anything.
Most people couldn't give a rats about figure skating as a sport except to say they watch it during the Olympics or by chance they see it as they are flicking through the channels.

Since figure skating doesn't have the wherewithal to do that, its dependent on volunteers and on national federations to provide them. So there is politics and bias. Yet it isn't a farce and it is a beautiful sport.
There are some federations where skating could be profitable but most are not so therefore depend on a volunteer workforce of officials and others to make events happen. It would be interesting to know which countries the sport does run at a profit.

I know that as a judge in my country, while I might get a reimbursement towards expenses, there is no way that the clubs and associations could pay me as a judge. It would add to already stretched budgets. And at the end of the day the skaters and parents are the one who would pay for it through memberships and entries. And considering the sport is expensive enough, it would be another impediment to people participating in the sport.
 

VGThuy

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This may be an unpopular opinion, but I do think this sport has an image problem and I do think even skaters themselves complain or are perplexed by the judging. When I say image, I don't mean changing the sport but the judging. We fans complain about it so much and we understand the sport and its culture more than outsiders do. I think some times we get defensive when outsiders criticize our sport that we don't look for viable solutions to improve the situation and we end up in our own bubble. I'm not saying outsiders have all the answers or that they even have practical solutions, but I'm of the opinion that if there's something that we could work on, why not at least brainstorm for solutions about things even we have problems with while still keeping the sport that we love rather than burying our heads in the sand.
 

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