SALT LAKE CITY — The Gang of Nine received their top-secret instructions long ago.
Assignment: Judge the ice dance competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, United States of America.
Level of difficulty: Piece of cake.
Required equipment: The ice dance results from the 1998 Winter Olympics and the 2001 World Championships; you will need them to determine the winners at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Paperback novel; maybe three or four. Magazines and newspapers; you will need them when the paperback novels run out. Coffee. Jolt! Cola. Caffeine tablets. Pillow; you will need it when the coffee, cola and caffeine run out.
But that was before Monday and the ruckus caused by pairs judging controversy. In other words, the jig is up.
Now, for the remainder of the figure skating competition, every figure skating judgment will be scrutinized and second-guessed, along with every figure skating judge. Even in the greatest foregone conclusion in international sport, ice dancing.
Ice dancing has been in danger of having its Olympic credential pulled since the judging controversy of 1998, the event ending in a 1-2-3 finish that appeared to have been determined weeks in advance. After the Canadian pair of Shae-Lynn Bourne and Viktor Kraatz seemed to be outrageously underscored at fourth place, the judge from Canada, Jean Senft, went public with accusations of vote trading among the judging panel.