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Allan Maki

Protest song will play on

From Monday's Globe and Mail

Athens — Scandals, protests, grievances and more protests.

You thought this sort of thing only happened in figure skating? Think again, Aristotle. Here in the cradle of democracy, we heard nothing but whining and crying, bellyaching and brouhahas.

It was rampant. It spread through the Athens Olympics like so many scalpers looking to unload their tickets. There was the great kerfuffle involving Canadian gymnast Kyle Shewfelt in the men's vault. There was the even more scandalous marking of Russian Alexei Nemov on the high bar. There was the shady scoring that awarded the all-round gymnastics gold medal to American Paul Hamm instead of South Korean Yang Tae-young.

Three judges were suspended for erroneous scoring, which caused everyone but Mary Lou Retton to send a letter to the International Gymnastics Federation demanding an explanation, also the correct spelling of kerfuffle.

And that wasn't the end of the protesting. What happened in gymnastics also happened in equestrian, swimming, boxing, rowing, fencing and, of course, rhythmic gymnastics. So what happened here and why were so many Olympians unwilling to accept their fate quietly?

Call it life after Salt Lake City, where the figure skating scandal that involved a French judge and Canadian sweethearts David Pelletier and Jamie Salé became an international incident, complete with updates on CNN.

Everyone from fans to the media to various sports officials saw an injustice and forced the issue. There was no place for those in charge of figure skating to run and hide. Even the International Olympic Committee got into the act and agreed that change was necessary for the good of the Games. You never saw that before.

In the old days, the Juan Antonio Samaranch days, injustices were common, even expected. Who can forget the boxing competition at the 1988 Seoul Olympics? There was an eight-minute, sit-down protest by a South Korean boxer who lost and decided he was not going to leave the ring, even if Mike Tyson climbed in and challenged him. Soon after, there was the great shafting of American Roy Jones, who clearly won his bout over a South Korean fighter but was awarded a loss on points.

Those incidents happened, and no one from boxing or the IOC bothered to raise an eyebrow.

But the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics emboldened people, showed them you can fight city hall and win. And the IOC has learned that correcting errors and bad judging doesn't bring the whole Olympic show to a halt, it improves it. It gives it a measure of fairness.

It's a new wave of thinking that also appears to be working on the drug-catching front. Under Samaranch, a positive doping test was considered worse than death and very bad for business. Under Jacques Rogge, the new IOC president, a positive dope test is something to trumpet.

So get used to it. All that whining and crying is not going to end any time soon. In taekwondo, a female competitor from Thailand kicked her Cuban rival in the head and failed to get a point, while one competitor drew blood from his foe and never even got a nod from any of the three judges. One coach was so upset by the questionable scoring he refused to leave the arena until his protest was heard.

The World Taekwondo Federation took the International Gymnastics Federation approach by reviewing the protest, then denying it, which means the IOC still has a ways to go before declaring all is truly fair at the world's biggest sporting spectacle.

Until that day comes, the IOC should consider dropping some sports that involve judging, horses and grooms.

With the Games of the 28th Olympiad officially over, we can now look ahead to 2008 and Beijing, where the opening ceremony should feature some necessary additions. Marching in under their own flags will be the aggrieved, the lawyers and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

It should make for a lively brouhaha.

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