Before the sports press, FIG President Bruno Grandi explains how Gymnastics reinforced its credibility

Doha, Feb 10, 2016: Invited to address the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) Congress in Doha Wednesday, FIG President Bruno Grandi summarised the big changes in Gymnastics during the past decade, including the introduction of a new code of points and a system for evaluating judges, which has permitted the sport to reinforce the credibility of its results. The full text of Grandi’s speech is below.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends of the sports press,

I have the honor to open the day here at the AIPS Congress. Please be assured that I am not going to ask you to do any Gymnastics yourselves, but I hope to convince you to pay more attention to our worthy sport between each Olympic Games.

As you are certainly aware, we have had the pleasure of seeing Gymnastics become one of the three “top tier” Olympic sports. For me, as President of the International Federation, this is the equivalent of a gold medal.

This success is the fruit of a labor undertaken several years ago in order to assure the credibility of our sport and what I like to call “sportive justice.”
Gymnastics is a marvelous sport, but it’s a sport that must be judged. We do not have stopwatches that tell us who wins, nor do we have finish lines that show us who arrives first.

Instead, human beings judge the performances and they base their judgements off a code of points created by human beings. So what does sportive justice mean in a sport judged by humans?

We could have a whole philosophical discussion on this subject. But I will limit myself to two essential elements that guarantee a system that renders justice to the beauty and technical sides of our sport:
– A clear and coherent code of points
– Judges who are honest and competent

This seems simple and obvious. However, As I enter the 20th and final year of my Presidency, I can’t help but look back on those long hours of discussions, all those endless meetings, in which we tried to move things in this direction.

I could talk for hours about the code of points. It wasn’t a small thing! We had the “perfect 10” in Gymnastics, the 10 that made Nadia Comaneci famous 40 years ago. Everyone loved the 10 because it was the symbol of perfection.
But the 10 was in fact restrictive, because it did not permit the judges to separate the difficulty level of exercises and the quality of their execution. We saw that the system had reached its limits at the Athens Olympics in 2004. After those Games, I said “Basta.”

This is how we came to adopt a system that combines two scores:
– A score given for difficulty: This note adds the value of the elements that are performed in the exercise.
– A score for execution: Thanks to this score, we have retained the 10 as a synonym of perfection. This score starts as a 10, and judges deduct from it as they see faults in the execution of elements.

Some said that I was crazy — and some are still angry about it. But this system of open-ended scoring has been in place at our competitions for 10 years now.

The other point is the competence and honesty of our judges. The geopolitical battles between East and West, which were also played out in sports arenas, now fortunately belong to the last century. But we have taken drastic measures to prevent those little arrangements between friends, as we also did in the past.

Gymnastics owes a great deal of thanks to Longines, our loyal sponsor. They are the ones that have provided us with a precious tool, IRCOS, a system which allows us to watch replays in real time. Without this system, we would not have been able to undertake what we have now achieved.

Thanks to IRCOS, we have been able to reduce the subjectivity of the judges and introduce the possibility of contesting scores. In case of a problem, the superior jury can re-watch the exercise in order to verify that the routine has been scored correctly.

Competence is also built through education. We have improved our judges course and brevet system in order to assure that all judges have the level of excellence required for international competitions.

During this last Olympic cycle, we have established a system for evaluating judges. After each World Championships, the scores of each judge are analyzed using different criteria. The system is very complex, but it allows us to identify the outliers among the scores, and the judges who give them.

After the 2014 World Championships, the disciplinary commission sanctioned 7 Artistic Gymnastics judges and 5 Rhythmic Gymnastics judges for errors or attempts to favorite gymnasts from their own federations.

This same evaluation system has permitted us to recognise the excellence of the vast majority of our judges. From this we have drawn a list of judges who will be on the job this year at the Rio Olympic Games. They are thereby not chosen by their federations, but because of the work they have done.

This is why, dear friends, I, who have consecrated my life to Gymnastics, I am serene. This historic sport, which has been part of every Olympic Games since 1896, is thriving.

And I hope that in Rio this summer, as well as before and after the Games, you will highlight the performances of the exceptional gymnasts whom we have the privilege of watching perform in our sport. Grazie!” —- FIG

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