Tuesday, February 10, 1998
Dance to be iced?
IOC threatens to boot event from future games
There could be a lot more at stake than just medals when the ice-dance competition begins on Friday.
The sport as an Olympic event could be on trial.
International Olympic Committee president Juan-Antonio Samaranch has already warned the people who run the International Skating Union -- the Swiss-based world governing body -- to do something about the quality of judging in the dance, or face the consequences. The worst-case scenario, of course, would see ice dancing purged from the Olympic calendar.
Many skating officials wave off Samaranch's warning as a mass of Iberian hot air, but there are those who believe the Spanish sports czar is serious in his threats.
One of those is John Greenwood, a respected Canadian figure-skating judge who is working the pairs competition.
Greenwood agrees that drastic changes are needed to bring ice-dance judging back to respectability.
The latest controversy involved the Canadian team of Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz. At the Champions Series final in Munich two months ago, judges from Russia, Italy and France voted in obvious political blocs to prop up each other's skaters. So even though defending world and Olympic champions Pasha Grishuk and Evgeny Platov fell during a routine, they placed first overall. That outraged officials at that meet and fans throughout the world.
"Ice dancing needs to take a close look at itself," Greenwood said. "It is a discipline that is tremendously popular and entertaining ... The calibre of ice dancers is extremely high and world champions cannot continue to be placed first when they fall. The competitors behind them are just too good."
Ice-dance judges are notorious for rewarding high marks based on past performances and reputation. Greenwood said that's because the judges lack direction in terms of how to score the discipline. Emphasizing the athletic side of the sport would help them quantify the event.
"Right now, we as judges are charged with comparing many shades of grey," he said. "That's a tough job."
As a consequence, dance judges are insecure, Greenwood said, and reluctant to vote against established favorites in favor of something innovative and new, such as the Canadians' Riverdance program.
"Nobody wants to be out of line and no one is really encouraged to be out of line," Greenwood said.