The Olympics and Judging

February 2014. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

The Winter Olympics are upon us, and this has me thinking about all the events we are seeing and how the winners are being determined. That means making "judgments." However, I am not talking here simply about Judging in the type sense of the word, but about judging in terms of its uses in "contests." Of course that usage does include making decisions (or judgments) so in a roundabout way we are still on the topic of type.

I was privileged to attend the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008 and watch nearly all of the track and field finals as well as synchronized swimming. Track and field people, by the way, are purists in terms of what they believe are true Olympic events. They believe events should only be included where there is no human factor in the judging. That means whoever is fastest, or jumps the highest or longest, or throws the farthest is the winner.

In these sports there is no room for judges to make scoring verdicts. Without this type of judging there would be no gymnastics, no diving, no synchronized swimming, etc. And in the Winter Olympics, that would mean no figure skating, a favorite of mine.

Track and field (a.k.a. athletics) has been plagued by athletes taking drugs to enhance their performances, so I find it interesting that they are calling themselves "purists." When some of us left an athletics banquet to attend the synchronized swimming finals, the joke there was that anyone attending the latter event should be "drug tested." Truly, watching the synchronized swimming finals was almost intoxicating!

Now, who decides which drug is "performance enhancing" and which is not? The decision is likely based on a Thinking judgment, since there are logical standards used. But what about the Feeling component of how people accused of using drugs are treated and how we create harmony (or not) in our relationships when the test comes back "positive?"

Of course, many winter event athletes might also be tempted to take drugs to enhance their performances. I wonder if some of those ski jumpers and snowboarders might want something additional to calm their nerves and enhance their bravado before taking off, let alone something to make them go higher (perhaps a pun is intended here)! Is that a Thinking decision or a Feeling one? I can see that decision being made either way!!

In the U.S., the commercial networks usually limit our Olympic coverage. But in some European countries, there is a pledge to cover every event's gold medal performance, no matter how esoteric the sport and no matter which country's athlete wins.

It seems that the decision here on TV coverage is made both from a Thinking perspective (which sports will bring the most viewership and thus more commercials watched) as well as from a Feeling perspective (which sports have a "human interest" component and will make people feel good in watching them). However, that still leaves some events out.

When I watch the Olympics, I admit I'll be making lots of judgments, such as those about the beauty and the grace of the figure skating routines as well as how crazy those snowboarders' jumps look to me. I think too about the sacrifices each athlete and his/her family made to get there, and also the joy of that process. Here are people doing what they love - what could be more wonderful!!

I truly don't care who wins. I just hope a good time is had by all and that somehow the international spirit of the Olympics helps create lasting bonds of friendship, or at least of understanding. After all, the latter is what type is about, too.