Skating on Thin Ice

The Olympic Games have been around for hundreds of years. They are something that people everywhere around the world look forward to all year long. Athlete or not, everyone knows what the Olympics are. With the extreme popularity comes extreme broadcasting. Millions of people turned on their televisions and radios, read newspapers and magazines, and searched the web to hear the results and news about the games this winter. Broadcasting feeds people. They crave to hear the latest scandal, see footage of the most recent event, and be informed of what is going on in the world that they live in.

This year the figure skating competition drew a particularly enormous audience. Because a scandal was involved, figure skating received special attention, which left the sport with a new reputation. Media is a powerful thing; this was proven this year during the winter Olympic games. A lot was heard, and learned, about figure skating during the past month of Olympic coverage. This year, a problem with judging and secret deals caused two gold medals to be given out; one to the Russians and one to the Canadians.

What happened off the ice seemed juicier than the actual competition, according to many sources of media. What is interesting, is that controversy is not uncommon to the sport of figure skating. A Newsweek article, “The Sleazy Side of Skating,” gives many examples of past figure skating scandals. In 1908, at the London Olympics, Russian Nicolai Panin withdrew from competition, saying the judges were stacked against him. At the 1936 Games, a Hungarian judge placed the Hungarian skaters second and third, which stood out when no other judge had placed them higher than seventh.

In 1927 at the World Championships in Oslo, a Norwegian skater placed first, thanks to three Norwegian judges. That led the International Skating Union to restrict each country to one judge. Although these are significant examples of figure skating trickery, they were not really important until now. Journalists are researching the history of figure skating, and making known scandals that had occurred in the past. In 1993, Tonya Harding’s husband paid $6,500 to have Nancy Kerrigan injured so his wife could have an advantage.

The Harding-Kerrigan scandal was this country’s first real taste of the drama that goes on with figure skating. Because a scandal involving money and crime took place, it was shown all over television, and talked about on the radio. This year also, if the off-ice drama did not match the theatrical spectacle of competition, then it topped it. According to CBC Sports Online, “The North American Press is very powerful.

There were 1,750 journalists covering this matter. The federation and its judge were dirtied in a media campaign without precedent,” (www. c. com). By researching this event, I have found the previous statement to be completely true. The North American press is very powerful, and completely over exaggerated the drama that took place because of this event. The first time that I heard about this skating scandal was on the ten o’clock news, on channel four. The story was brief, but caught my attention with a catchy title: How a judging scandal stole skating’s show. It showed clips of the Canadian team receiving the silver medal, and their dissatisfaction.

The news focused on the “pain, and suffering,” that the Canadian team experienced by not receiving what they deserved, the gold medal. The news also explained the unfair judging that occurred, and what was being done about it. I was curious to see how a Canadian news channel would cover the same story, so I found an article on the CBC website. “Canadian Judge weighs in on figure skating controversy,” was the title. This article focused almost completely on what had happened with the incorrect judging, and how the Canadian judge interpreted the scandal.

The Canadian article seemed almost modest about what had happened. Even though the team had deserved the gold medal, there was no hatred towards the Russian team, or the judges. The article was very factual, and not opinionated. North American television didn’t only talk about this skating scandal on the news. The Canadian figure skating pair, Jamie Sale and Davie Pelletier, were seen on NBC’s “Today” show with Katie Couric, and discussed on Jay Leno, and Rosie O’Donnel. The skating drama was practically turned into a soap opera by the American media.

Magazines quickly published articles, and put the ice skaters on the front cover. General interest magazines, such as Time and Newsweek both had front-page articles about the figure skating drama. The sports magazines seemed to avoid the whole story, and focused on Sarah Hughes’ gold medal victory. The true sports fans, including the figure skaters, didn’t even seem to be worried about the judging scandal. “What we can’t control, we can’t control, and that’s the way it is” said Pelletier about the judging.

If I didn’t want this to happen to me, I would have went down the hill on skis,” (http://www. usfsa. org). The Seattle Times featured an article, “Double Golds and the classy Canadians,” a few days after the decision to give out two gold medals. The article was definitely supporting the Canadian’s team, and putting down the Russians. The article was very blunt and said that the, “The Canadian skaters were robbed,” and that, “the judging did not come close to meeting Olympic standards,” (www. seattletimes. com).

The NationalPost, a popular Canadian newspaper, covered the skating story as well. An article titled, “Amateur vs. Pro: Sale and Pelletier debate the issue,” (www. nationalpost. com) speaks of the effect that the judging controversy had on the skaters, and what they truly felt about it. The article seemed to almost ignore what had gone on behind the scenes, and focused more on the athletes, and how they were effected. American newspapers are out to get the story that will make people angry, and include scandal.

The Canadian newspaper seemed to want to inform the public more than anything else, and even try to avoid the, “real story,” about the judging. The extensive covering of the figure skating judging scandal has good and bad effects. The way that the American press has blown up the unfair judging, makes people have bad thoughts about the trickery and lies that go on everywhere, even at the Olympics where judges are under oath. The Canadian figure skating pair gained a ton of publicity because of what happened to them, but they don’t necessarily want all of the attention.

An article from the United States Figure Skating Association quotes, “Judges will remember the scandal that went on this year at the winter Olympics, and some may hold grudges against the Canadian pair,” (www. usfsa. org). Other skaters complained that the figure skating pairs competition, “stole the audience for the rest of us,” (www. usfsa. org). The ice skating scandal that went on during the winter Olympics this year has proven that the media drags things on to a point where it seems ridiculous.

The American press will do anything it can to gain viewers, and raise ratings. Unfortunately, American people are victim to this powerful thing called media. They crave to see scandal, and do watch what goes on. They are brainwashed in a way, because no one really knows the true feelings from the ice skaters, what should really matter. The skating competition this year is one that will be remembered forever. American television, newspapers, and magazines all focused on this scandal, over-exaggerated the drama, and left figure skating with a new reputation.

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