Sunday, August 24, 2008

Olympic Judgement

I was talking to my Dad about the Olympics. He hasn't watched a lot of it but He started to complain about the sports which give judged scores, preferring the ones with definable quantitative measures. I thought this was interesting since I've complained about this as well. Are we genetically predisposed to complaining about gymnastics scoring? :)

I think it is pretty evident that the scoring system just does not work. This is evident in the spread of the scores given by the judges. If all the judges gave nearly the same score you may be more inclined to believe that the score they gave is what the athlete deserved. Instead, the Olympic judges, presumably the best judges around, cannot give consistent scores between themselves. Right here I would like to run through some numbers, calculating standard deviations of the group scores and compare that verses the variation between athletes. Unfortunately I don't remember enough of my statistics class to do a good job of that quickly. (If someone wants to give it a shot, I'd appreciate it, maybe I'll try later.) Though, I am confident that the variations between the judges is far beyond the differences which determine gold and silver and bronze.

The problem is, I really enjoy many of the judged events. It is amazing what these athletes do. I am in awe. How can we help to increase the confidence in the scores? I think this could be done. I started thinking about diving. A computer-camera system could be put into place which would estimate the angles of the body, determining rotation, separation of the legs, and ultimately it could put a quantitative measure the amount of water displaced. Similar systems could be used in gymnastics as well.

A system like this would not solve the problem outright, but it would give the judges more to work with. It also would give the audience some tangible scores that they could appreciate and understand. In the end the variation between the athletes would need to be accounted for. This would all come down to human judgment, but maybe with some engineers help we can reduce the error within the judges and insure that the athletes get the metals that they deserve.

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