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Fairness in the Olympics

  1. Feb 16, 2006 #1

    dduardo

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    I was listening to NPR in the car and they were talking about how the wealthy nations were able to send technicians with their athletes to tune equipment based on course conditions, while poorer countries didn't have the luxary.

    In particular they were talking about how U.S. skiers would have various sets of skies which were specially waxed based on measurements and calcuations technicians would take of the course, while Romanian competitors would have one pair of skies that were waxed in no special way.

    Do you think the Olympic committee should give out standard equipment to the competitors so that metals are earned through human abilities, rather than technological/monetary differences?
     
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  3. Feb 16, 2006 #2

    JasonRox

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    The Olympic Committee should do that, but it's not that easy to just throw in regulations like that.

    We have to remember that the Olympics isn't about amateur sports anymore, it's about professionals.
     
  4. Feb 16, 2006 #3
    Has that Bodie guy even finished a race? I'd say technology hasn't given him much of an edge
     
  5. Feb 16, 2006 #4

    JasonRox

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    Sure he didn't benefit but others do.

    Look what happened in the past Olympics when the skates of speed skaters had a new design. Not only did the wealthy countries have this design and won every race, they also crushed world records. Was that fair play?
     
  6. Feb 16, 2006 #5
    Should Fosbury have been made to teach everyone his flop?
    Are you saying nobody should be allowed the best technology? or everyone should be given the best technology?
     
  7. Feb 16, 2006 #6
    The Olympics are not about fairness. If we wanted a fair competition, as if there could be such a thing, all athletes would have not only to use all identical equipment but they would have to be trained the same number of hours by the same coaches using the same facilities and so on. It doesn't make sense. At the Olympics, athletes compete for their country. One way or another their country is the main resource for both their training and equipment, so you don't just compare human beings, you compare entire geo-political organizations. And when it's over, all countries compare medal count like they would compare size. It's a game.
     
  8. Feb 16, 2006 #7

    dduardo

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    Orefa, so do you think steriods allowed? How about pneumatic muscles? Cyborgs?

    Where is the line drawn between technological prowess and pure human ability?
     
  9. Feb 16, 2006 #8
    Steroids are forbidden by the rules.

    Those don't really exist, you know.

    It isn't. We already know "pure human ability" is not pure whenever equipment is involved. What we have here is a game played not only by athletes but by countries, and countries showcase their technology along with their athletes.
     
  10. Feb 16, 2006 #9

    shmoe

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    Can you name anyone who wasn't using the clap skate because they couldn't afford it in Nagano? Looking at past olympic speed skating results it looks to me that the balance of power didn't really change, though we don't have much post clap skate olympic results yet. The

    World records falling to new, widely available technology is irrelevant to fair olympic competition. You're competing with the people next to you, not the old results.



    Standardized equipment would be bad for most events in my opinion. Not everyone wants the same gear, skiiers will have their own preferences for how their skis are waxed, some curlers like the duct tape on their brooms, skaters have blade sharpening preferences, etc. If you did decide to give out standard gear, what kind of modifications do you allow for athlete preference if any at all?

    It is impossible to create a perfectly level playing field. The olympic comittee can't even out the facilities available to prospective athletes for training. One of the reasons Canada does well in events involving ice is because we have a disproportionate number of arenas compared to the rest of the world. This sort of thing can't be helped, though it could be deemed very unfair for the curler in New Zealand (or Australia? I forget, but he's not at the olympics either way) who had to drive 6 hours to get to a sheet of ice.
     
  11. Feb 16, 2006 #10

    Mk

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    Right on man.

    As for dduardo's question... well, like a lot of things there is no line.
     
  12. Feb 17, 2006 #11

    Moonbear

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    Nice post schmoe! There's another thing I'd add to that. These athletes compete with the equipment they've trained on. To give them standard equipment that they have had very little time to train with and expect them to compete using that could be even dangerous if they aren't used to the way it handles or feels and don't have time to break things in. Think about the skaters alone...would you want to be practicing and competing for a full week in brand new skates that have not been broken in? Think of the idea of being handed a brand new pair of shoes and being told you're going to have to walk 30 miles in them the first day you get them, no time to break them in or get used to them or work out the stiff or rough spots!

    At the Olympics level, knowing how to handle, maintain and prepare your equipment is as indicative of your knowledge of the sport as all the other skills you come in with. Someone competing at the Olympics level certainly should know how to wax their skis appropriate to the course conditions. I might think it would even be better for the athlete themselves to be the ones to check out course conditions and make their own adjustments based on what feels right for them, because a lot of it does come down to feel. Do you think every technician there is giving identical advice?

    And, there are plenty of countries whose athletes in many of these sports really are not at all competitive compared to those of other countries, either due to lack of a sufficient population to select elite athletes from, or trainers and training facilities, or just the focus of what's important to their citizens. So, you get some countries that send 3 athletes to compete, just to be proud of trying, even though they don't expect to win any medals. They may not even want to use the latest equipment, because they've never trained on it and have no idea how to use it safely.
     
  13. Feb 17, 2006 #12

    BobG

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    Fosbury's flop was a technique, not a new tool. It still fits the spirit of testing Fosbury's accomplishments, not the technological accomplishment of his country.

    I do think there should be rules similar to NASCAR that even the technological playing field and turn the test into one of the competitors' skill. I think these do exist to a certain extent (and are sometimes implemented for reasons other than fairness - the 'catskin' ski suits that nearly became popular were banned because they were felt to be a little too revealing of the competitors' anatomy - as opposed to beach volleyball, in which only revealing clothing is allowed).

    The bigger difference is in training facilities and trainers. The wealthier countries get better training (provided their nation finds that sport appealing) and are the first to implement new techniques. Even copying the wealthier countries techniques are difficult if the poorer countries don't have access to the same quality training facilities. I don't think you can regulate that.

    I thought the story about the Chinese figure skating coach was interesting. He was part of the first Chinese figure skating pairs team to participate in the Olympics and I guess it was a pretty humiliating experience.
     
  14. Feb 17, 2006 #13

    shmoe

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    I think one of the arguments against the flop was it's not really the same event anymore. Just like we have all the different swimming techniques in seperate races, I wonder if the flop shouldn't have been put in it's own event? I don't really know.

    New equipment gets booted from events all the time. There were those swimsuits that were declared a buoyancy device and banned. There was a sprint cyclist whos home made cycle put him in a vastly superior aerodynamic position but it was eventually ruled he wasn't 'cycling' due to the drastically altered position. I think all they can really do is set guidelines and evaluate new gear as it comes out as to whether it will benefit the sport or not.
     
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