Staff editorial:The Olympic Creed

By Editorial Board

When the first modern Olympic Games were established in 1896, the Olympic creed read, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

But that creed is hardly recognizable today. This year’s Games have been tarnished by doping scandals, incompetent judges, poor sportsmanship and point mongering.

The newest incident involves U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm and South Korean gymnast Yang Tae-young. Hamm, who rallied from 12th place in what is now considered the greatest comeback in gymnastics history, is facing doubts over the legitimacy of his gold medal. According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), three of the judges miscalculated the difficulty of Tang’s parallel-bars routine – awarding him a starting score of 9.9 instead of 10.0. With Hamm edging out Tang by a mere 0.049 for the gold, the error proved costly.

While the IOC has admitted to the wrongdoing by suspending the judges, the committee has declared the results will not be changed. During the event, the South Koreans had plenty of opportunity to protest the results. However, they accepted the parallel-bars score, believing their gymnast would perform better in later events. Only when Tang won the silver did the South Koreans challenge the results.

The rules state that once an event is finished, changes to the scores are prohibited. Thus, Hamm should not give back his gold medal nor should a duplicate gold be awarded. While Tang might have missed the gold because of a scoring error, he only has his coaches to blame for not challenging the results sooner.

Tang and Hamm both performed admirably, and it’s not their fault the results were tainted. Although it’s a shame that history might place an asterisk on their medals, it will be an even bigger shame if the South Koreans prolong the controversy any further.

In perfect conditions, Tang might have won the gold, but that wasn’t the case. His finish was the result of a miscalculation on both the parts of the judges and his coaches. And while the Olympics aren’t about winning or losing, it is about fairness. It’s unfair for Hamm to give back the gold just because the South Koreans were unhappy with the overall performance of their gymnast.

Based on the rules, Hamm won. In principle, his amazing comeback establishes him as the true winner in the eyes of many. Even if Hamm was forced to return his medal, that distinction would be unchanged.

Finally, while this editorial board doesn’t advocate Hamm returning the gold voluntarily, we wouldn’t mind it. Hamm’s act of selflessness would rise above the pettiness this year’s Games have resorted to and remind us the spirit of the Olympic creed still exists.