Olympic Judges: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?


Always best to begin nearly three weeks of wall-to-wall Olympic coverage with a bit of mind numbing Latin. Who watches the watchers when the watchers are Olympic judges?

This will be the most judged – read least objective – Olympics ever. Not a good thing unless you prefer a whiff of cheating with your sport.

To dull your sensitivities to the possibility of partiality, the judges take an oath: “In the name of all the judges and officials, I promise that we shall officiate in these Olympic Games with complete impartiality, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them in the true spirit of sportsmanship.”

We are much comforted.

According to Matthew Futterman, Rachel Bachman and Betsy McKay in The Wall Street Journal, the Sochi games will be the most judged ever.


“Unlike the much older sport of figure skating, where tricks are assigned numerical degrees of difficulty, judges in snowboarding and freestyle skiing base their final scores on ‘overall impression,’ according to the rules, with an eye toward a run’s ‘amplitude’ (the trade term for height), plus execution, variety and difficulty. The overall message to competitors: be daring, but don’t crash.”

Overall impression? Amplitude? Sounds like “make it look good for TV.”

Mary Pilon and Jeré Longman add another question in their New York Times piece. After years of scandals, figure skating has revamped its scoring system, but according to number crunchers, “‘A less optimistic view’ of the International Skating Union, he said, was that its goal ‘was to reduce the perception of corruption rather than actual corruption.’”

After it is all over and the controversies have been replaced by other controversies, I will still remember Franz Klammer winning the downhill in his yellow suit. Against the clock.


Dr. Seuss understood far better than the IOC when he wrote about the bee-watcher-watcher.


Enjoy the TV coverage of the games; just don’t take the results too seriously.