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”Ask support” letter to all over the world

Dear Sir/Madam:

Hello, I am Hajime Ogawa. I have lived in the U.S. for twenty years. My favorite sports are succor, baseball, and figure skating.
The Sochi Olympics are around the corner. The reason I am sending you this letter is that I have a favor to ask of you who support Olympic Games, figure skating, and all kinds of sports. This is related to a fateful crisis in figure skating.

Have you noticed that figure skating is getting drastically less popular these past several years? You may not be able to imagine what I am saying because every competition held in Japan is attended by many figure skating fans. But in other countries, even World Championships, many seats have been empty in every competition for long a time.

Do you know that a sign that read “Hi! Slichs” was held by a figure skating fan at the Torino World Championship in 2010? That was a strong protest sign against the judges. Have you heard that at Nice World in 2012, the arena was full of loud booing against the judges from the audience about unfair scoring? At London World in 2013, the audience was totally lost for words about what to say about the scores. Many old and huge figure skating fans are very angry about inexplicable scores. Do you have any idea why these things are happening in the figure skating world?

Figure skating is one of the scoring competitive sports. However, the most critical part of this sport, the scoring system, is despairingly unaccountable. The International Skating Union has set a rule and it is standing up against those who try to solve this problem. And consequently, now this sport has no fairness or transparency in its scoring system. For many years, figure skating fans have been very distressed to see figure skaters who got shocked by unexpectedly lower scores than usual. There is no perfect world since judges are human beings, but still too many unexplainable scores have been seen, especially during these past six to seven years, including the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010.

The main issue of this irrational scoring system is the anonymity of the judges, meaning we are not able to know which judge gave which grade or score to a skater’s performance. This anonymous system was introduced in 2004 along with a new scoring system, and this releases judges’ responsibility for accountability of the scoring. Is there any remedy against the negative effect of the anonymous judging system?

What shocks us is the existence of the ISU Rule 123, paragraph 4, “Protest restriction”. This rule restricts any protest against the scores or evaluation, except mathematical calculation errors. The ISU does not accept protests from skaters or coaches at all. The original principle of this rule was to prevent unnecessary confusion at competitions, even if it might have been a just public position. If the purpose of the anonymous judging really follows this principle, the fairness of judging must be the whole promise. For example, baseball, which is not a scoring competitive sport, is introducing a new judging system based on video tape, which opens the door to players and a team to protest against unreasonable or erroneous judging. This is just one of the examples. As you may know already, many sports try to reduce human errors in their judging as much as possible in order to ensure fairness as a sport. This will ultimately work to obtain trust from fans, and the sports which are run by people with a high fairness of mind can keep fans’ devoted support in the long term.

Unfortunately, there is no such fairness of mind in figure skating and there is no door to be opened for skaters and coaches. Rule 123, paragraph 4 completely prevents their protest, and the judges can give whatever scores they want under an umbrella of an anonymous judging system. It is no wonder that many fans in multiple countries don’t watch figure skating anymore. But we, big figure skating fans, never want to see the death of figure skating.

We organized a project group to request the ISU to revise Rule 123, paragraph 4 to ensure the fairness and transparency of the judging system. I am the representative of this group.

We will ask the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) to change or terminate Rule 123-4 from the ISU rules, if possible.

“We need accountability for skating, because we love it. We stand against “Restrictions of Protests” in figure skating. We want to ask you to change or terminate ISU Rule 123, paragraph 4 of the ISU General Regulation, Protest restrictions from the ISU rule book.”

However, we have no time left. The Sochi Olympics are around the corner. This project cannot succeed without your help. We would like to ask you to monitor each judging with your watchful eyes to see if it is truly fair at Sochi. We would like each of you to be an individual monitoring body from various areas to support the Sochi Olympic Games to make sure the judging is fair for all competitors.

Please do not think that you have no such power because you are not involved or not a professional. It is nothing difficult. You just have to visit bog listed below and read what you can do. Our blog introduces our activities toward the revision of the ISU Rule 123, paragraph 4, and our maximum efforts to prevent unfair judging at Sochi. We greatly appreciate your support for this. We need your help. We cannot do this without you.

Please watch the figure skating at Sochi without prejudice, the media buzz, or nationality. I hope you can enjoy the great performances with fair judgment. Again, please watch the figure skating, at Sochi, on TV or in the social media. Consider the champions with your own eyes, sensitivity, knowledge and senses. You will be grateful for the skaters’ challenges to difficulties. You should then be able to choose the Olympic champions!

The great power is the existence of people who see the process of judging as more important and critical than just the result of the competitions. If those people are not only skaters, coaches, or people working and supporting in the area, but also politicians, corporate or private sponsors, and skating fans, the power will be even stronger. Every single skater has been working hard since he/she was small, every single day with intense training. After such hard and long labors, finally they have been selected to be in the dream team at the Olympics.

I would greatly appreciate your help and support for those skaters and the future of figure skating.

Please check our sochi123 blog at: http://sochi123.cocolog-nifty.com/sochi123/

Almost all this blog is in Japanese, but some parts are in English, French, Italian, and Russian. You can understand what we want to say.

Sincerely yours,

Hajime Ogawa

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