Which of the following popular Olympic sporting events is not like the others:
The correct answer is B, the halfpipe. Why? Because it’s not a real sport. In real sports, the winner is determined by objective criteria – fastest, longest, heaviest, whatever. But in the halfpipe, and in all “judged” events, the winner is determined by allegedly “expert” judges who decide who they thought did the best job. These judges often don’t agree with each other, or with the viewing public, and they are famously subject to improper influences. Judges in sports are supposed to enforce the rules, not decide the winners. If the judges decide who wins, it may be a competition, but it’s not a sport.
Am I suggesting that participants in judged events are not real athletes? Of course not – figure skaters like Michelle Kwan [2014 update: and skaters like Gracie Gold] and snowboarders like Shaun White [2014 update: and freestyle skiers like David Wise] are spectacularly talented athletes. But the Olympics are supposed to be about winning because you are the best, not because some judge decided you were the best. If a “sport” is not susceptible of the former kind of victory, it shouldn’t be in the Olympics.
Of course, judged events will never be removed from the Olympics. The beloved figure skating events are the biggest draw in the entire Winter Olympics lineup, and we have to have events like the made-in-America halfpipe so that Americans are guaranteed to win at least a couple of gold medals. [/cynic] But I think that’s too bad.