ISU Responds to Criticism of Olympic Ice Dance Judging


The judging of the ice dance events at the Nagano Olympics unleashed a firestorm of criticism of dance judging.  Accusations were flung by skaters, coaches, media and the general public.  This criticism was briefly addressed by ISU officials during the competition.  In response to the significant outpouring of correspondance to the ISU, the following press release was issued.  It is posted here in it's entirety.

The International Skating Union (ISU) has received correspondence concerning Ice Dance from sportsmen/sportswomen and skating fans around the world following the recent Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, Ottavlo Cinquanta, President of the ISU, today sent the following response:

The Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, were a remarkable success for the ISU but, as is often the case, success is accompanied by comments, questions and also criticism.

At the official press conference at the conclusion of the Games in Nagano, I took the opportunity in the name of the ISU to refute the allegations made concerning "block judging" or favouritism towards certain athletes in Figure Skating sport disciplines.

The ISU has specific and severe rules to guard against excessive subjective judging.   Sanctions against judges have been taken in the past and will be taken again in the future if requirad, but sanctions cannot be taken on the basis of unfounded allegations, accusations or suspicions.

Figure Skating and Ice Dance are wonderful and very technical sports where the results are determined by marks and placements givan by judpes in a subjective manner but in line and in response to technical rules that are debated and approved by the ISU Congress.

The ISU has made great efforts in an intensive initiative to ensure that skating judges are extremely experienced and fulfil their role with a suitable sense of responsibility and an impartial, objective attitude. One of the main challenges to be addressed was a tendency for the results of competitions to be excessively "stable".

In Figure Skating, good results have been achieved in this area. In recent years, it has been clearly evident that the final results of all the competitors, not just the top skaters, have been according to the actual performance presented by the skaters with frequent changes in the ranking order.

Regretfully, in Ice Dance, the problem of "stable" results still exists. This is a fact that the ISU does not deny and yet we have still to take effective action. I believe that the remedy for this problem is to introduce changes in the rules, thereby giving the skaters and the judges more specific references.

Ice Dance must be a competitive sport. Competitive is a word that I have used many times and this is the challenge that we must meet in Ice Dance if we are to move the sport on to another level. I am more than confident that the introduction of new technical rules imposing, for example, certain specific elements in the Free Dance together with other technical amendments would serve this purpose.

I am very conscious that this is no easy task but I am requesting immediate contributions and ideas from all the technical advisory groups of the ISU to address this problem. I am also confident that at the ISU Congress in Stockholm this June, our Member Federations will help to work towards a positive development in this important area. But we are not waiting until June to begin.

To avoid any misunderstanding, I wish to emphasize that the problem of a lack of movement in the final results in Ice Dance, concerns all the participants in the event, not just the top ranked couples. In my opinion, this proves that it is a general problem and, consequently, it is the technical rules that must be explored to remedy the situation rather than exaggerated criticisms of the judges.

At the end of the day, of course, Figure Skating and Ice Dance will remain sports that are judged by judges and different opinions and even assessments based on emotional reactions cannot be totally avoided, as is the case in many other international sports.  But the work has begun and we are confident that substantial progress will be made.

Ottavio Cinquanta
President, International Skating Union

Milan, March 3, 1998

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