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Thread: Who is in the "Western bloc"?

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Question Who is in the "Western bloc"?

    Judging controversies and especially "bloc judging" is always a hot topic in figure skating. Under the secrecy provisions of the New Judging System we will no longer be able to tell whether judges from nations that share a common historical, cultural or political background tend to vote together, or not.

    It is clear to me what we mean by the "Eastern bloc." The former soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan are all full voting members of the ISU. (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are not members.)

    But Mongolia is! Also there are many countries that were formerly under the Communist sphere of influence, such as the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia and Montenegro. Although politically many of these countries (for instance the Islamic former SSRs and the remnants of Yugoslavia) have no particular residual fondness for Russia, still most of the individuals involved in figure skating in those countries have Russian connections. That is certainly true of Israel as well. I’m not so sure of China’s place in all this.

    In addition there are many countries, France being among the most blatant, which openly make whatever deals they can to advance the fortunes of their own athletes. Indeed, many people in the ISU believe that it is the express duty of the national federation to do so, and if you don’t play along you are just a sucker.

    Who is in the “Western bloc?” ISU members in the western hemisphere are the U.S., Canada, Mexico and provisional members Brazil, Argentina and Puerto Rico. Does Canada tend to support U.S. skaters and U.S. positions in ISU councils? Japan? Australia? Are any of the Western European countries particular allies of the U.S. on figure skating issues?

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    How about Danmark and Germany?

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    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
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    US and Canada certainly make a block; I'd say Japan is usually with them.

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    The former Soviet republics and the former countries of the communist world, were all brought up with the ideal of communism, which meant: all things that are good are because of the STATE!!

    The State provided the tools for that athlete to be the greatest in his field. It cost him nothing except to work and train hard for the State. The athlete must win one way or another and prove to the world that without communism this could not be accomplished. The athlete was rewarded with good perks at the time.

    The aftermath of all this, is just a continuation of the Spirit of Glory for the State . Athletes and fans of these States continue to feel this spirit wherever they are in the world. Their figure skating judges, imo, are empowered to continue the spirit.

    Oh those capitalistic western states! the group in Europe can't find ground to form a political and econmic union no less agree on how to get together to fix a figure skating event. Money talks for them and it would have to be a bribe to get them to do something illegal , and the tradition of the"May the best man win"
    is engraved in their upbringing and prevents 99.9% from even thinking of a bribe..

    Oh for the Glory of Rome and the Glory of Greece and if you've never seen Leni Riefenstahl's extraordinary film, Triumph of the Will , I would suggest you check it out.

    Joe

    (For me, I just want La diva KWAN, Klimkin and Lambiel, Deloebel and Schoenfelder, and Shen and Zhao to win. But if they don't, it wont be the end of the world. Will it?)
    Last edited by Joesitz; 06-26-2005 at 03:35 PM.

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    Joesitz

    Joesitz, You ask such a question? Certainly it will be the end of the World. Your choice is the best of the best. That means you have great taste.

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    Custom User Title CDMM1991's Avatar
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    Can somebody give some examples of cases where bloc judging affected the results? I'm just trying to put it all in context/

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CDMM1991
    Can somebody give some examples of cases where bloc judging affected the results? I'm just trying to put it all in context/
    I looked up one event, just for fun. But it is pretty much impossible to really decide anything, and it will become even worse under the NJS.

    Here are the results of 2002 Worlds, where Irina won over Michelle by a 6-3 vote. (This was right after the Olympics, where the American Sarah Hughes was given the nod over Slutskaya. If you recall, the Russian federation protested the placements in the short program, and there was quite a lot of feeling among the ISU brass that it was Irina's turn at Worlds that year.)

    Slutskaya judges:

    Fabio Bianchetti, Italy. (This is the son of Sonia B., who was kicked out of the ISU for leading an unsucessful palace coop against the ISU president, Speedy's predecessor.)
    Adrianna Domanska, Slovakia
    Lovorka Kodrin, Croatia
    Igor Dolgushin, Russia
    Irina Absallamova, Belorus
    Hanna Then, Poland

    Kwan judges:

    Judit Furst-Tombar, Hungary (She was later kicked out of the ISU for opposing Speedy in the WSF fiasco.)
    Philippe Meriguet, France
    Marianne Oeverby, Sweden

    There were no judges from North America or Asia.

    So except for Italy (Cinquanta's country), there were five judges from the so-called "Slavic Bloc," all of whom voted for Irina. And three judges outside the that bloc, all of whom voted for Michelle.

    Well, that doesn't prove anything. I thought Irina should have won, too. Still...

    Mathman

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    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
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    Joe, I can't honestly believe that you mean everything you wrote in your post. That's as much a generalization about USSR as many of the things Europeans often say about Americans. Take the Protopopovs for instance. Do you honestly believe that Oleg was working his butt off for the glory of the state? I don't! Perhaps that's one reason, btw, why the state so obviously prefered Rodnina to him.

    As to the political disagreements - should I really list all the problems former USSR republics have with Russia? Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are so obvious it's pointless to even mention anything. Georgia with its rose revolution and Ukraine with its orange one don't exactly make for Russia's poster kids either. Also, Israel tends to side with Russia in FS, and that clearly is not the case in the world at large. Why am I listing all this? To show that the fact that France and Denmark rejected the European constitution says nothing to whether or not they would support each other in ISU.

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    ditto Pitchka...just adding that I wouldn't be surprised if there /were/are networks within FS that constitute 'blocs' that vote/judge in certain ways...but the making of the 'iron curtain' in 'western' discourse and the underlying assumption that it is an "it" and homogenous (and the west in its own way too, just better, or more free or for the individual in a good way) is just so wrong and so unhelpful in sorting out politics, imho. I was trying to figure out some witty reply about the fetishization of the state (i.e. western state) via a certain nostalgia for the greco-roman antecedents...or some remark on how Hegelian the title of triumph of the will sounds (although, i have added it to my movie list, urgh, yet another list!)...but i couldn't think of anything witty enough...so, again, what pitchka said. In the meantime, I'm still interested in how votes have been cast and why.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emma
    ditto Pitchka...just adding that I wouldn't be surprised if there /were/are networks within FS that constitute 'blocs' that vote/judge in certain ways...but the making of the 'iron curtain' in 'western' discourse and the underlying assumption that it is an "it" and homogenous (and the west in its own way too, just better, or more free or for the individual in a good way) is just so wrong and so unhelpful in sorting out politics, imho. I was trying to figure out some witty reply about the fetishization of the state (i.e. western state) via a certain nostalgia for the greco-roman antecedents...or some remark on how Hegelian the title of triumph of the will sounds (although, i have added it to my movie list, urgh, yet another list!)...but i couldn't think of anything witty enough...so, again, what pitchka said. In the meantime, I'm still interested in how votes have been cast and why.
    emma -

    1. I was speaking about Russia during the cold war and how it influenced it's populace within its boundaries and those countries which found the Soviet way of life the best for its peoples. Their interest in culture including sports was to be be better than those countries with a capitalistic base. It was more important that the Soviets would win than the western way of thinking that the 'best man should win'. This was also espoused by the Nazis. And the Soviets did just that by supporting the arts including sports fully and with rewards for the artists and athletes beyond anything the western countries would do.

    I was not saying that this was the wrong thing to do. I was just pointing out that there was a difference in how artists and athletes were trained between the communist world and the capitalistic world. I would like all countries to support their artists and athletes. I think the Nazis and Soviets were correct.

    2. My major point was after the decline of naziism and communism, the athletes continued in that spirit of winning uber alles and using any method as Zhulin once said, "the Americans don't know how to play the game". For them, it is still a matter of nationality. For me, it is not a game. It's to have the best skater that night, WIN, from wherever in the world he/she/them those skaters are from.

    Now for my opinion on the way things are set up; the present game is to keep the judges' names secret. There are enough judges of Russian descent to be on any panel of a competition. therefore, imo, there continues to be 'bloc' judging based on cultural similarities.

    As Mathman says, we will never really know how a decision is made in a tight race and whether or not it was bloc divided because of the secrecy in the new system devised by Speedy. The Olympic Committee warned him that they will not tolerate any more scandals at their Olympics!! So, if there happens to be some sort of collusion, it will not be evident because of the secrecy. That is how Speedy solved the problem without caring one iota for the athlete.

    We will not even see 'bloc' judging because we won't know who the judges are.

    If Irina and Sasha are in a tight race for the gold, and both skate their best. My question is basically this: Should we just accept the result without knowing who the judges were?. If you agree we should not know who the judges are, then that is your opinion and, of course, mine would be the opposite.

    And just see what happens in Pairs on THAT night!!!

    Joe
    Last edited by Joesitz; 06-27-2005 at 09:40 AM.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mzheng
    How about Denmark and Germany?
    Well, the Danish judge voted with what was widely described as the "Eastern bloc" in the ladies competition at Salt Lake City.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptichka
    The US and Canada certainly make a block; I'd say Japan is usually with them.
    That would seem natural, but I don't think that the facts actually bear it out. Canada and the U.S. seem to me to be on opposing sides on most issues that come before the ISU, most dramatically on everything surrounding the New Judging System. Interestingly, Canada was gung ho for everythihg Speedy wanted, while the U.S. and Russia got together in opposition. Canadian judges quite consistently give lower marks to U.S. lady skaters, compared to the average of the judging panels. I don't know about the other disciplines.

    Japan and the U.S. do seem to be on the same side most of the time.

    Mathman
    Last edited by Mathman; 06-26-2005 at 01:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman
    Well, the Danish judge voted with what was widely described as the "Eastern bloc" in the ladies competition at Salt Lake City. That would seem natural, but I don't think that the facts actually bear it out. Canada and the U.S. seem to me to be on opposing sides on most issues that come before the ISU, most dramatically on everything surrounding the New Judging System. Interestingly, Canada was gung ho for everythihg Speedy wanted, while the U.S. and Russia got together in opposition. Canadian judges quite consistently give lower marks to U.S. lady skaters, compared to the average of the judging panels. I don't know about the other disciplines.

    Japan and the U.S. do seem to be on the same side most of the time.

    Mathman
    this makes me wonder if some judging and voting patterns...and the use of blocs/alliances or not....is related to the relative strength of a particular federation. I mean from this example, each one (US, Canada, Japan) has a well developed (from what I've read here) organization, well financed one (i'm sure with differences and problems), with deep teams...just thinking off the top of my head.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Ptitchka -The basis of my thread is that under a totalitarian State which I believe the USSR and Third Reich were, the cultural affairs were part of the governemnts. The USSR, in particular, came on strong when they started entering the Olympics. I don't know why so late, but I could speculate it was not until the government was ready to ensure that the athletes would be winners. And they were!!. Advantage: USSR! But there was western advantages too. It actually ended Amateur Sports in the United States, and I believe set up Colorado Springs as a training ground for sports but there wasn't any funding from the government. The USA is very proud of their athletes but the government will never subsidize them They have to do it the capitalistic way. with their own money or hopefully, from sponsors.

    When you think about it, Public Broadcasting is subsidized but not to the extent it could run on just that. As I said money talks, and if a figure skater can't afford the best training, too bad, and if they win a medal at the Olys, there is a quick luncheon at the White House for them. And that's it.

    As for the Soviet athletes, they were happy and they did work their butts off. I will generalize and say that all athletes the world over love to compete and win medals, and in Soviet Russia it was held in high esteem by the government. They had time to develop the requisite needs for producing great sports and athletes. The USA still hasn't. Advantage: Russia.

    I am not a Russian History major so I am not all to clear about the politics within the Soviet Union with reationships of the Baltic States and other would-be states. I did not mention Israel. But I see what you mean, and I apologize with the EU statements.

    However, the fact is that there are still Russians within the liberated Republics of the old USSR, and as Mathman says they all have skating federations which means they will be in the mix for selecting judges along with judges from the former communist countries in east europe. The odds of getting more of these judges than judges from western europe is overwhelming in their favor.

    As to USA and Canada, they are hardly ever in the same competition and if they are and Buttle is skating against Weir, trust me, there will be no agreement.

    Again, I reiterate my feelings about all this. The judging is done on cultural grounds not political and that is why I favor Regional Selection.

    On the present scene, the Russians have an incredibly strong team. It would be silly to think there would be hanky panky. I think SLC has everyone nervous. The only competitions they may not have a lock on are: Pairs, and Men's singles if Plush is not healthy. However, I do believe because of cultural reasons that they are at an advantage anyway, and I do believe that a majority of the former Republics of the Soviet Union, and some, not all, of the former communist eastern european states would give an easy win to a top Russian contender - not by politics, but by similar cultures. Much depends on the mix of the judges selected!

    Joe

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Here is another example, which I also just posted on the Maria Butyrskaya thread. Here are the judges for the Salt Lake City Olympic pairs event.

    Berezhnaya and Sikharudlidze judges:

    Marina Sanaia, Russia
    Jiasheng Yang, China
    Anna Sierocka, Poland
    Vladislav Petukhov, Ukraine

    Sale and Pelletier judges:

    Lucy brennan, USA
    Benoit Lavoie, Canada
    Sissy Krick, Germany
    Hideo Sugita, Japan

    Well, its four and four, strictly along Eastern bloc, Western bloc lines. Which bloc will be successful in buying the deciding vote?

    Marie Reine LeGougne, France

    Mathman

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