This is about the FIG (Federation Internationale de Gymnastique), the US Olympic Committee, Paul Hamm, and Yang Tae Young.
Here's the story: In the All-Around Men's Gymnastics Competition at the Olympic Games on August 18, Yang Tae Young's parallel bars routine was incorrectly assessed by the FIG's technical panel as having a maximum point value of 9.9. As a result, Tae Young scored one-tenth of a point less than he deserved, winding up finishing in third place for a bronze medal. Paul Hamm amassed the highest point total in the All-Around and was awarded a gold medal, edging out the second place Korean gymnast Kim Dae Eun. Their point totals were: Hamm, 57.823; Eun, 57.811; and Young, 57.774. If not for the error, Yang Tae Young would have won the gold.
In a statement issued by the FIG on August 21, the FIG announced they made a "judging mistake" and suspended three officials. The FIG also announced that there is no mechanism for protest:
The judges’ marks have to be accepted as a final decision and cannot be changed.In statements reported in the American press, Hamm has revealed the poor lines of communication with the FIG:
A lot of the time I did not know what the FIG [International Gymnastics Federation] had decided ... and what I was doing was basically looking on the Internet to see what reporters had been saying because no one had contacted me. Not a single person.Fair enough. But Hamm also said, "If the FIG will decide that I have to give it back, I’ll do it."
Bruno Grandi wrote a letter to Paul Hamm and asked the USOC to pass it along to Hamm. You can read the letter here. In it, Grandi congratulates Paul on his performance, quotes Hamm's statement regarding returning the medal, concedes that the error lay with the FIG, and states "the true winner of the All-Around competition is Yang Tae Young." Bafflingly, the letter falls short of asking Hamm to return his medal: "you are the only one who can make this decision."
The USOC refused to relay the letter to Hamm, further undermining the lines of communication that Hamm complained about. The chair, Peter Ueberroth notes, "To put an athlete on the field of play [in position] to make a decision [on a contest] just doesn't make any sense." I have to agree.
How should this have unfolded?
- Scenario 1: FIG concedes the error, says there is no mechanism for protest, that the review is for internal purposes only, and states clearly that the competition results should stand as awarded.
- Scenario 2: FIG concedes the error, states that the competition results are invalid, reissues corrected results, and instructs the medalists to return the medals for redistribution.
- Scenario 3: FIG concedes the error, states that the competition results are invalid, reissues corrected results, and petitions the IOC to award a second gold medal to Young.
Before I wrote this post, I thought Hamm was being obtuse and splitting hairs. After reading the FIG's statement and letter to Hamm, I have to confess that I am starting to agree with Hamm, and feel that the FIG has bungled the matter.