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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 00:13 GMT

Salt Lake fated by 'Skategate'

BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay reflects on the resolution of the figure skating controversy in Salt Lake City.

In the city that was so dogged by scandal during its bid for the Games, it was somehow inevitable that the actual action in Salt Lake would also be remembered for controversial shenanigans.

'Skategate' has been the talk of the town since that fateful Monday night, and no matter what happens in the remaining days, it will have provided the lasting images of these Winter Olympics.

At first glance, the story has a fairytale ending, with two good-looking, wholesome Canadians rightfully given gold for their endeavours on the ice.

IOC president Jacques Rogge also emerged with considerable credit after leaning heavily on the skating authorities for a quick resolution.

As he said, it was important for "justice and fairness" to be seen to be done.

Five days in skating
Monday: Outcry as Russian pair pip Canadian duo to gold
Tuesday: Talk that French judge may have colluded in voting trade-off
Wednesday: ISU confirms internal investigation, Canadians launch legal action
Thursday: IOC demand quick decision, Russians unhappy at media pressure
Friday: French judge suspended, IOC/ISU agree second gold for Canada

But I'm not sure even Rogge believed himself when he said "the matter is now definitely closed".

Figure skating has been held up for ridicule once again, and suspending the French judge at the centre of this row will only go a small way to lancing this most beastly of boils.

We have heard all manner of accusations and allegations about mafia-style judging and trade-offs between traditional Cold War bloc votes.

Some of those will surely stick long beyond the end of these Games, and especially in the minds of people who only focus on the sport once every four years.

In the first Olympics of the 21st century, it remains a mystery why sporting prowess should still be undermined by subjective judging, and also why it needed such huge public pressure to get an obvious wrong so speedily righted.

The International Skating Union must take a good, long look at itself, and somehow restore credibility and faith in the eyes of the sporting public, so that in future, the best are always seen to come first.

Its president, Ottavio Cinquanta, says he will present proposals for a new judging system to the ISU Council within the next few days.

But that may be too late for the closing headlines from these winter Olympics, the 2002 Games which many will remember as 'Skategate in Salt Lake'.


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