The Electronic Magazine of Competitive Ice Skating
Final Medal Count
French Team Press Conference, 5 Feb 2014 (in French)
US Dance Sound Bites, 14 Feb 2014 (Chock & Bates followed by Davis & White, and Maia and Alex Shibutani)
Olga Graf (RUS), medalist in Ladies 3000 m jumps for joy at awards ceremony after surprise bronze medal result.
Yazuru Hanyu (RUS) Beams after Men's Medal Ceremony
Meryl Davis & Charlie White (USA) at Ice Dance Medals Ceremony
Ice Dance Gold Medals. These are what It's All About.
Adelin Sotnikova (RUS) after Medal Ceremony
Figure Skating Medalists Together at the End of the Gala Exhibition
Random Thoughts Randomly Posted
An Olympic Skating Competition Without Controversy is Like a Picnic Without Ants
The uproar continues over the results of the Ladies event, with an online petition protesting the results reaching 1.9 million signatures, and the Korean Olympic Committee submitting a protest with the IOC, which has since been rejected.
After being scored nearly equally in the short, Adelina Sotnikova won the long, skating before a panel that consisted of nine judges, three who were different from the panel that judged the short program. Among the three were Alla Shekhovtseva, a Russian judge who is married to Russian federation general director Valentin Pissev, and Yury Balkov from Ukraine who was suspended for a year in 1999.
Did the Russian judge and her friend help push Sotnikova over the top to win the gold medal? Did they engage in bias or misconduct? Thanks to the way the protocol sheets are scrambled and the secrecy of the entire process, we will probably never know. But given the past history of the sport, should it be any surprise to the ISU that questions would be asked.
When the issue was brought up to the Russian coaches, who were asked the next day if the appearance of conflicts of interest on judging panels is something that should be stopped, Adelina's coach just bristled at the question. Not surprisingly, she took it as an insinuation that it was though that Adelnia did not deserve the medal, and she defended the result, ignoring the real question. None of five Russian coaches and choreographers at the press Friday press conference would take up the question and say that apparent conflicts of interest should be eliminated from judging panels, or even agree that it was a bad thing. Peter Tchernyshev was very diplomatic in avoiding persistent questions and took the position the programs were created in accordance with the rules, and if people have issues with ISU rules they should make suggestion to the ISU to change them. He was pushed hard on this issue in a press scrum, and did not budge.
I can remember back to the 1998 World Championships following a judging scandal in the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, I asked ISU president Cinquanta about this very issue, whether the ISU recognized that the appearance of a conflict of interest was just as damaging as a real conflict of interest. He did not get it then, and apparent the ISU still does not get it. I don't know if the Russians do not get it either, or they like the opportunity to play politics, or they are afraid to speak out against the ISU. But on face value, the Russians don't get it either.
Adding secrecy and scrambling the marks has only made things worse. The lack of information only makes the minds of fans race faster coming up with conspiracy theories. If the marks were not scrambled on the protocols, for all we know we would see that a majority of the judges favored Sotnikova and the Russian and her friend did not tip the balance. Some in the Korean media think they can figure that out, but in fact they cannot. But they way fandom works, the lack of information is proof enough of guilt. And the ISU doesn't get that either.
The ISU instituted secrecy and scrambling the judges' marks naively thinking if they made it impossible to prove anything or understand the split of the panel, the messy questions would not be asked. The realty is, the question will always be asked. People will always want to know how the sausage got made. When IJS was being developed, the true believers often said one purpose of the system was to insure the focus of an event was solely on the skating and not on the panel. In that goal they have failed miserably.
The current approach is unfair to the skaters. By creating and perpetuating the situation where the integrity of the results are sure to be questioned, the luster of the medal is diminished. The skaters and their coaches should not have to put in the position of having to defend the results because the ISU cannot come up with a system that makes clear to everyone but the most dedicated conspiracy theorist that the integrity of the results are secure. It's great, even healthy, for fans to debate the quality of the skating and the relative merits of the performances. It shows they care and are engaged with the sport. But it is not healthy to have the fans debating the impact of potential, or even imagined, misdeeds on the results.
Secret judging needs to go. Scrambling the marks needs to go. Then the ISU needs to take up real, effective reforms that guarantee the integrity of the results. We all recognize that even with all the numbers, the scoring system still includes subjective aspects that will never be eliminated, and there will be honest differences of opinion about how a skater should be scored. The ISU needs to get to a place where the public believes that when the marks differ among the judges, it is sole due to those honest differences of opinion and nothing else.
ISU Issues Head-in-the-sand Statement Regarding Ladies Result
Did you expect anything less?
It does, however, confirm that there were no protests to the ISU for any of the ISU events (figure skating short track, long track) at these games.
Where Have All the Doggies Gone?
When I arrived I saw several stray dogs every day in the hotel complex, but now not so many. In fact none in the last couple of days. Have they been all rounded up by the doggie death squads, or scooped up by the athletes and fans who have befriended them and want to rescue them from a cruel fate? Inquiring minds what to know.
If You Build It, Will They Come?
To Sochi to ski, that is,
Took a ride to the mountain cluster and back today for the first and only time. I better feel my colleagues pain who were rooming there. So many unfinished and empty hotels. Some now with signs on them looking for "investors."
I don't see how the mountain cluster is economically viable. IOC President Thomas Bach has extolled the creation of the first winter sport and resort destination in Russia created for the Games. But after seeing it I have to ask, does Russia really need it? And is it economically sustainable?
The scope of what was built (or attempted to be built) is enormous. There is more hotel capacity available than they could ever hope to fill as a ski resort, and most of the mountain cluster venues are not viable long term. The first derelict is likely to be the ski jump facility. There is no snow remotely near the venue. The only snow is what is on the course, melting rapidly in spring-like temperatures, with one month left for winter, The snow level looked to be about 1000 ft higher than where the ski jump venue is.
To get to the snow, it was a bus ride to the mountain cluster press center at the edge of town, which as said, is about 1000 feet below the snow level. Then another bus ride to the gondolas. Then, two gondola rides up to the venues. The first gondola lift was above barren ground that hasn't seen snow in a long long time.
I can't see a mass of people coming away from these Olympics here, or watching on TV, thinking 'The next ski vacation I want to take is in Sochi.' It's just too hard to get here, takes too long and cost too much. The simplified procedures to get into Russia for the athletes and media were better than is normally the case for a trip to Russia, but still were far more complex than anywhere else in Europe. Under the onerous standard procedures that vacationers would face -- why bother when Europeans can get to Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, all more easily and for less expense, and have better snow. For North American, we all know the best skiing the world is in the North American west. The snow I experienced in person at the top of the hill in the mountain cluster was what I expected from watching on TV in the main media center - granular, slushy, wet.
My crystal ball says Sochi as a winter resort destination will continue to be limited to Russians who can afford to get there, and much of the new resort capacity in town will go unused.
How Much Does a Potato Cost in Sochi?
The ubiquitous potato. You can find it anywhere in the world. But here in Sochi, you pay a dear price for them. I expect arena food to be expensive, but in the cafeteria, too? $4.50 is the going rate for a portion of boiled potatoes. A small portion. They are good, but come on, how much could a potato cost?
And from there it's only worse. Today at the snack bar outside the media seating area the most expensive item is a portion of beef about one-half inch thick and three inches in diameter, that's about 2 ounces, $10.5.
Last week we went down to the Sochi harbor area and had lunch at a seaside restaurant. The prices in the menu were good, and the food was excellent. Then the bill came. Everything was pretty much double what was listed in the menu.
Thank God, for the MacDonald's in the media center. They did a thriving business. That was my last stop before heading out to the bus to the hotel at midnight most nights.
What Constitutes a Clean Program?
The day after the Ladies' free skate Ashley Wagner (USA) complained that she had been gypped, and said that with three clean programs she thought she should have been higher. We assume she meant she should have at least been placed above Julia Lipnitskaya who fell in both the short and the long.
We take from this that Wagner believes that any program where the skater does not fall on their ass is a "clean" program.
We do not agree. When we speak of a clean program or not in our competition reports, a clean program is a program for which the GoE marks for the elements are all greater than or equal to zero. Not a single GoE, but that the panel's collective GoE points for each element are never negative. We often refer to an element that has a GoE value less than zero as being scored negative. We do agree, however, that jumps on which a skater falls get too many points, especially the quads.
By that definition Wagner did not have clean programs. Yes she stayed on her feet in all three, but she had major and/or minor errors in all three programs.
And what are major and minor errors? A minor error is any error for which the judges must reduce the GoE by 1. A major error is one they must reduce the GoE by 2 or 3, though we also break this down to an error with a reduction of 2 a major error, and an error that requires a reduction of 3 a catastrophic error. Also keep in mind, if a judge gives a -2 that does mean there was necessarily a major error. It often means there were two minor errors. To muddy the waters further, a judge can go -2 for a major error , but then go up one for a minor strength and a -1 will show on the protocol. So you can not necessarily tell from the looking at the GoE in isolation what degree of error the skater made.
From previous Olympics I am used to the sponsors drifting in to see one or two skaters in the later groups and then leaving, but the fans, arriving so late. Not so much.
Consistently, with 15 minutes for the start of the figure skating events the arena has been nearly empty. As I write this 16 minutes before the start of the exhibition, the seats are may 1/10 full.
But it will fill up, because consistently about a half hour into the events the arena has been nearly full. Not a sell out though, but nearly so. For every session we have seen a few empty seats in many sections. Most of the crowd has been Russian fans. After that there were a lot of Korean flags for Kim and a lot of Japanese flags for Asada. U.S. and Canadian flags were sparse, with more Canadian than U.S.
Security Not in Your Face, But Is Everywhere, Have no Doubts About it.
We have seen a few reports kvetching that security has been lax at time in some locations. That may well be true on rare occasions. We had one experience since we got here where we were able to get onto our hotel complex property without having to show a credential. But have no doublets security here has been thorough.
Every night the Iceberg has been swept by security personal and bomb dogs. Sometimes during the day too before events. Before the medal ceremonies in the park they sweep the stage with something that looks like a metal detector, but may instead be a ground penetrating radar, looking for devices under the stage. The purple people (security staff) are everywhere.
Security staff is dressed in purple. Other helpers are in blue. Everybody's coming and going is tracked. Entering the park, leaving the part, into venues and out, on the bus and off. They have a complete electronic record of everywhere I have been the past 19 days. Under the circumstances we are all fine with that, and it has all been polite and efficiently implemented. Not in your face like Salt Lake. I remember well, aggressive and inefficient screening in 2002, the police and SWAT teams staged everywhere in plain sight, the troops and the barbed wire in many locations.
There are police and army here too. Just not parading out in public in a show of force. They have maintained the party atmosphere in the park while still keeping things secure. On the way up to the mountain cluster we passed at least two army camps, each one of which must have housed several thousand men each counting the tents and vehicles. There are also some disguised barracks in the vicinity of the park where the heavy duty security people are housed.
The bus route up the mountains follows the same route as the train. Watching the train route from the bus, one sees that the train tracks, when not passing above the river is isolated by a high chain link fence with concertina wire. There are cameras everywhere, and the tracks and all the railroad infrastructure is guarded and patrolled. There are even cameras in some of the busses. I have gotten into the mindset, that wherever I am there is a camera looking at me, except maybe staring up at me from the bottom of the urinal.
The "ring of steel" around Sochi is easy to mock, but it's true. I have no doubt there is far more security deployed than what I have casually noticed, and nobody is sneaking into places where they shouldn't be able to sneak.
I wouldn't want to live my whole life in such an environment, but we are all fine with it for the games and are glad they have done such an outstanding job.
This Iceberg Isn't Floating Away
Though still advertised as a venue to be moved and turned into a veldrome, the buzz among the worker bees in the venue is that it is not going anywhere and neither is the nearly practice rink. Just rumor, but the backstage talk is that the organizers finally realize it is too expensive to move, and they just don't have the money to do it.
But what Sochi is going to do with six ice rinks within a five minute walk of each other, that we want to see a year from now.
Shout Out to the USOC Media Department.
It's a major effort to cover the games. It starts after the previous Summer Games wrap up, when the process for applying for credentials beings. So, nearly two years is invested in the exercise.
All of the many steps and requirements for covering the games are handled by the USOC media department which does a great job to smooth the way not only for credentialing, but also making hotel accommodation and providing other necessary information for planning a trip to the games. Once plans are in place it doesn't end there. A few months there is a media summit to meet the athletes, get interviews and picture, get current status info on the games, and help resolve planning problems.
At the games many events, including all of figure skating and much of hockey, are designated high demand events, and just because one has a credential it does not mean one is guaranteed to get into these events. USOC handles the complex process of coordinating tickets for access, proving daily press releases and schedule updates, and more. One could not cover the games without their excellent support and help.
What Does the Future Hold for Olympic Venues?
The Sochi Games have cost more than any previous Olympic Games, reportedly more than $US50 billion. Will the games leave behind facilities destined to become derelict, as happened after the Beijing games, or will the facilities provide the legacy organizers hope for? Only time will tell, but these are the plans for the facilities in the coastal cluster.
The main press center and international broadcast center is slated to become a shopping mall and entertainment center including a hotel with 324 rooms and a hotel apartment complex with 4200 rooms.
Three of the venues in the Olympic park will remain in Sochi and be repurposed. The Alder arena where the long track speed skating is being held will become an exposition center. The Fisht arena used for the opening and closing ceremonies will become a soccer stadium and training center for the Russian National Football team. The Bolshoy Ice Dome will remain a hockey arena and multi-purpose sports and entertainment center. Befitting their permanent status in Sochi, these three facilities were built much more solidly than the other venues.
Iceberg Ice Palace
Three venues are slated to be moved to elsewhere in Russia and be repurposed. The Shayba arena where the Women's Hockey events are held will become a youth sports center. The Ice Cube Curling Center will become a multi-purpose sports and entertainment complex. The Iceberg Ice Palace will be converted to a velodrome.
For the venues to be moved, their short-cut construction is obvious. These venues have served their purposes for the 12-18 months since they have been completed, but will clearly need a great deal of effort to restore them to "like-new" condition if/when they are moved. We say if, as it has been elsewhere reported that it is estimated that maintenance for the next three years for the existing venues and plans will cost $US7 billion over the next three years, and the government admits this funding may not be available.
For the mountain cluster, the plan is for that area to continue in use as a modern winter resort destination, making Sochi a year-round resort destination. The transportation infrastructure built to service the Sochi-Alder area, including a modern international airport, modern train station, and highway and rail development connecting Sochi, Alder, and the mountain resorts, will hopefully drive economic development in the region, and support development of the mountain resorts by providing relative quick access to the mountains that did not previously exist. At least that is the plan.
Team USA Takes bronze medal in Figure Skating Team Event
U.S. Team Event Entries for Ladies Short Program and Short Dance Announced (7 Feb.)
Ashley Wagner (ladies) and Meryl Davis & Charlie White (ice dance) will represent Team USA in the Olympic Team Event ladies short program and short dance. The team event short dance is set for 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8. It will be followed by the team event ladies short program at 8:10 and the team event pairs free skate at 10:05 p.m.
Remaining team event entries will be announced as follows:
Team Event First Up in Figure Skating Schedule
(5 February 2014) The first opportunity to medal in figure skating will come in the inaugural Olympic Figure Skating Team Event. Each team will consist of one woman, one man, one pairs team and one ice dance team to be selected from athletes who have qualified in their individual disciplines. Each nation, however, will be allowed to make up to two exchanges after the short programs and short dance.
The team event will consist of the 10 best national teams from NOCs/ISU members. The five teams with the highest number of points after the short program/dance will qualify for the free skate and free dance.
In the team event, teams will receive points based on their finishes in each segment of competition. The team with the most aggregate points through eight segments of competition wins.
U.S. Figure Skating announced Wednesday, Feb 6 the athletes that will represent Team USA in the team event short programs in Pairs and Men are Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir (pairs) and Jeremy Abbott (men).
Future U.S. Figure Skating entries will be announced as follows:
Short program/dance: ladies and ice dance – 10:00 a.m., Friday, Feb. 7
Canada will be represented by three-time World Champion Patrick Chan in the Men’s Short Program, and World bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford will skate the Pair Short Program for Canada.
Reigning Olympic Ice Dance Champion Scott Moir will serve as Canada’s team captain, and his partner Tessa Virtue is the assistant team captain.
The entries for the ice dance and ladies short programs will be named on February 7. The pair free program skaters will be announced on February 8 and the men’s, women’s, and ice dance free will be announced on February 9.
Illinois Skater Ready to Make Waves in Sochi (4 Feb.) - Jason Brown, the 19 year-old Illinois native who stunned the skating world at the 2014 U.S. Championships with an astounding second-place finish in Boston is geared up to make waves again in Sochi next week.
U.S. Ladies Ready to Rock Sochi (4 Feb.) - Gracie Gold, the newly crowned U.S. champion helming of the talented and tough 2014 U.S. Olympic ladies figure skating brigade, seems seem as poised and determined as ever to as ever to walk away from the Olympic games with not just a good experience, but also with a medal.
Off the Podium and Onto Sochi, U.S. Olympic Figure Skaters Fired up for Event of a Lifetime (24 Jan.) - It’s been almost two weeks since the U.S. Olympic figure skating team was selected at the 2014 U.S. Championships at the TD Center in Boston, a group that has proven, since that time, they are not yet about celebration, but instead intent on doing everything in their power to make a golden impression in Sochi next month.
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