This Olympics has seen a number of clearly bad calls by referees or judges. Some sports like gymnastics allows judges to review videotapes in resolving a challenge such as was the case where the American team successfully challenged the awarding of the bronze medal to the Russian female gymnast on the balance beam. (I loved watching U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, her husband, Bela, shouting demands for a challenge from the stands to ensure a review in favor of U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman. I have previously admitted to watching solely for the legal challenges). I was struck, therefore, to learn that they do not use instant replay in volleyball — one of my favorite sports to watch at the Olympics. This arose when the Chinese judge made an erroneous call in favor of the American men’s team against the Italians. The Italians were understandably upset since the instant replay clearly showed the American ball falling outside the line (though I was disappointed, as an Italian, to hear that the team is infamous for badmouthing referees). Yet, despite the instant and clear evidence of a bad call, the decision stood.
I do not blame the Chinese judge for his call. It was very close but the camera had a better angle. While the Italians prevailed in the contest, what if they had lost due to such a call? These athletes sacrifice considerably to get to the Olympics. It seems grossly unfair to end their shot at a medal or burden their chances with an unfair call when it is quick and easy to check. I understand that you do not want endless challenges but other sports have this ability and do not get bogged down in challenges.
Constant controversies in the World Cup shows the lunacy of International Football (Soccer) rules in barring instant replay.
The rigidity of Olympic rules is often a triumph of form over substance with the loss of fairness. This was evident in the fencing competition of Britta Heidemann of Germany and Shin A Lam of South Korea. As we discussed earlier, Lam led with one second left on the clock. Lam was heading to the gold medal match but the the clock was not started after the referee signaled to restart. That gave Heidemann more than one second to land the winning touch. It was unbelievable that the touch occurred in the one second time but the judge refused to reverse his call.
The Olympic rules for many of these sports need a serious review to better guarantee fairness and accuracy for these athletes. One immediate change should be the inclusion of instant replay in all sports, in my view. I am willing to deal with a slight delay to be fair to athletes who have worked for four years to get to these games.
Another change is to get rid of the truly moronic rule requiring cash to file a challenge in some sports like fencing and gymnastics. When the Japanese challenged another call in gymnastics, you could see the judge holding the $300 cash in processing the challenge — a rather demeaning and inelegant addition to the games.
What do you think?