2012/08/01 07:24 KST
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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on Aug. 1)

A clock that got stuck
: Steps needed to prevent wrong refereeing

The London Olympic Games are degenerating into a third-class event due to a string of wrong calls by judges.

   The bad officiating, either by accident or by intention, has victimized South Korean athletes in three consecutive cases in as many days, prompting some Internet users here to call for boycotting the ongoing Olympiad.

   They vent their anger, asking how such wrong decisions could be repeated in London that has become the world’s first city to host three Olympics. We sympathize with their fury and urge Britain’s Olympic organizers to come up with fundamental measures to prevent the recurrence of wrong refereeing.

   Female fencer Shin A-lam became the most recent victim early Tuesday morning, when she lost her bid for an epee gold medal following a controversial semifinal loss to Germany’s Britta Heidemann. Judging from what has been revealed so far, we think that Shin, 25, would have won the match had it not been for judges’ misjudgment and that the incident will be remembered as one of the most controversial decisions in Olympic history.

   Shin was tied 5-5 with Heidemann, the gold medalist four years ago, at the end of regulation time and they advanced to one minute of extra time. The German fencer appeared to edge Shin 6-5 with a winning hit with one second remaining but the clock stuck as Shin fended off Heidemann’s attack three times.

   Actually, the German’s hit came after the final second was over; and we don’t know why the clock stopped with one second remaining ― in fact several seconds had already passed. Our guess is that there may have been human error or malfunctioning of the clock. Before that, the clock had been reset from zero to one second due to a timekeeper’s apparent mistake.

   South Korea has already been at the center of high-profile judging controversies involving swimmer Park Tae-hwan and judoka Cho Jun-ho. On Saturday, Park had a false disqualification ruling overturned in a span of hours in the 400-meter freestyle race. On Sunday, Cho saw his Olympic dream dashed in the quarterfinal match of the under-66 kilogram judo competition as judges reversed their decision after the International Judo Federation’s Refereeing Commission intervened.

   With regard to the recurring bad calls victimizing our athletes, we don’t want to claim that there was a conspiracy. But there must be measures, in one form or another, to prevent judges’ bad decisions.

   Given that wrong calls or decision reversals have a decisive influence on players’ competitive ability, we are convinced that Park would have been affected by the disqualification brouhaha in his race.

   We take note of the notion that small and weak countries often fall victim to bad officiating and call for a level playing field for all athletes under the Olympic spirit of creating a peaceful and better world.

   The FIE, the world governing body for Olympic fencing, should acknowledge its mistakes and take proper measures to stop any recurrence.