THE IRCOS by FIG Project
Like all sports where human judging is the sole determining influence on ranking, Gymnastics must always keep in mind the concept of justice, the endogenous quality in a judge, and the tools, or exterior means available to him or her.
The first of these factors is based on the ethical standing of a judge, his/her education and moral and material independence with regard to his/her federation.
This aspect will not be dealt with in this report.
The second has to do with means, the tools available and the environment in which a judge can carry out his tasks with equanimity.
This is the issue at hand.
While perusing this article, it is important to keep in mind the evolution of Gymnastics, notably Artistic, and the Code of Points. In order for the discipline to evolve and blossom into the sport our founders of 1881 hoped for and in pursuing the vision of those who lead us today, a constant updating of the rules that guide our sport is essential.
The swift improvement of our gymnasts' performances and the natural evolution of the discipline rapidly depleted the resources offered by the Code. With startling alacrity, gymnasts reached and went beyond the limits set by the rules. Competitions at the close of the 20th century showed an increasing number of athletes ranking first, with the same number of points. The Code was no longer capable of differentiating between the performances of gymnasts in contention.
Artistic Gymnastics reached an impasse, the end of an era.
President Grandi takes the dossier in hand and, together with the Executive Commission, on September 30, 2004 decides to take the following immediate measures:
- The creation of video control;
- The possibility to object scores attributed to gymnasts;
Counter measures are taken.
The IRCOS Project (Instant Replay & Information System)
The concept of video assistance for judges is an old one. As early as 1972, FIG partner Longines was in possession of a video recording and visualisation system that worked at 100 images per second, advanced for that time. It wasn't used in gymnastics, but rather in swimming and pursuit cycling.
The system primarily handled the capturing of scores, data processing, the creation of CIS (Commentators Information System), and public posting. Video took the backseat for a time. Meanwhile, the technical level of gymnastics management simply improved. Software was fine-tuned, electronic score boards went colour, computer graphics three-dimensional. On the floor, judging became more and more difficult, elements more complex, the public and television more demanding. Powerless, judges got the blame.
The FIG summoned the engineers and experts of Swiss Timing Ltd., and got down to business.
President Grandi laid down two conditions, "This tool has to be both strategic and educational!"
First, there is the obvious assistance to judges. This is fundamental, especially when you place IRCOS in the very specific context of the newly effective regulation 8.4 of the Technical Regulations, which came into force at the end of 2005, and which consisted of offering gymnasts and their coaches the possibility of immediately contesting a juror's Difficulty mark for the first time ever. This is where the new and revolutionary system finds its rightful application and significance. Together, camera and laptop allow us to generate proof, footage, that can verify a decision. They are the tool with which we can visualise instantaneously a litigious sequence and, depending on the case, either send the gymnast back to his apparatus ... or the judge to school!
There's the news for IRCOS in competition. What about in other areas of the FIG?
In Melbourne, a gentleman followed the installation of IRCOS and its performance with particular attention. This man is the Director of the FIG's educational programme, most importantly the Academies. It didn't take him long to realise IRCOS' endless possibilities. Before he knew it, he held in his hands an efficient instrument that would allow him to store, manage and restore competition images while offering educators a professional, educational tool.
Competition and Education are the first to benefit from the technological advancements offered by the new system. But let's take our analysis of IRCOS' impact one step further, considering both its consequences and its requirements.
First for Longines. IRCOS = more equipment, setting up, responsibility, cost, risk. In the end, it was through sheer will that the project was successful. For the FIG and its administration, it means thousands of DVDs passing through the Secretary General's office with the paperwork that goes with that. Every rose has its thorn!
More seriously, though, the Technical Committees are going to benefit from IRCOS' impact to the greatest extent. The detailed analysis of post event exercises will finally be possible. Members can now learn more about the evolution of the discipline, the conduct of judges and, most importantly, draw conclusions and rectify situations. Since the IRCOS images will be made available to federations, coaches, judges and the public, analysis will lead to action. There won't be anymore hiding behind poor shots and blurry images.
The media know it and are awaiting the effects of this fundamental change in the analysing and development of judging in future competitions.
Next, the FIG Executive body, with proof in hand, will be equipped to evaluate the general direction gymnastics is taking and, depending on current trends and risks, take corrective measures through the Code of Points, for example. It might also evaluate judges, possibly even distribute laurels or thorns, thus proving that someone is at the controls. To a certain extent, IRCOS points the way for gymnastics as it moves forward with the times and casts aside the weight of old habits.
President Grandi's project, the FIG Educational Programme and Academies, will also reap of this harvest. Sooner or later, FIG technical authorities, like everyone else, will have to enrol in the Academies in order to attain a certain level or brevet that would provide them with the qualifications necessary to holding positions of great responsibility and in this way allow us to avoid Olympic sized catastrophes like we saw on August 18, 2004. And as for Education, IRCOS will provide a path to follow in relation to the technical level of our leaders.
The FIG approved and certified system, or an equally efficient programme, will henceforth be required for the following competitions:
Technical Regulations - Art. 184.108.40.206 Technical Level for competitions:
A. Intercontinental level for the following multisports:
- Olympic Games
- Youth Olympic Games
- World Games
- FIG World Championships
- Commonwealth Games
- African Games
- Asian Games
- Pan-American Games
The FIG will sell its technical videos to federations, coaches, gymnasts or other individuals interested in obtaining competition images over the FIG website.
And why not have IRCOS images on television or Internet, with a personalised menu that would allow viewers to watch only Beam or only the Japanese team?
IRCOS Phase I
After evaluative phases in laboratory and real competition situations in Artistic Gymnastics, notably in Birmingham (GBR - December 04 - World Cup Final) and Debrecen (HUN - European Championships - June 05), the IRCOS project obtained its operating permit for the Artistic worlds in Melbourne (AUS) in November 2005.
The community of judges and technicians, men and women alike, felt hopeful and apprehensive about the project.
- the hope to find a tool able to eliminate ambiguity in litigious sequences;
- apprehension about possibly not mastering the system and being unable to integrate the tool into an already overburdened work load.
At the close of 2005, the judges' college, Technical Committees for Artistic and FIG Authorities hailed the system, explaining that it fully met their expectations in its Phase 1.
The next discipline to have the honour of IRCOS would be Trampoline Gymnastics at the FIG World Cup Final in December 2006 in Birmingham (GBR). Rhythmic Gymnastics would be close on its heels in December of 2006, Trampoline and Acrobatic in 2007. By then, the system will have covered all FIG disciplines.
IRCOS Phase II
It is important to remember that the IRCOS project was founded on two pillars:
With the first achieved, the FIG has turned its attention to the second use of IRCOS images. The project's Phase II moves into the field of Education. In response to the hopes and expectations expressed primarily by Management of the Education Programme and FIG Academies, national coaches and Technical Committee experts, Phase II should be up and running over the course of 2007.
IRCOS was designed as a pedagogical tool for the use of the FIG's educational staff. Its designers add options to the basic programme that allow users to:
- Archive or save images (partially realised);
- Select sequences;
- Edit or produce didactic topics;
- Create general interest courses;
- Develop specific studies;
This pedagogical approach generates significant development costs, which should be considered against the backdrop of the immense potential it engenders in terms of education and all that goes with it:
- the promotion of gymnastics and
- accident prevention and gymnast health.
Put in perspective, this extension towards Phase II generates a new budgetary envelope estimated at some 100,000 US dollars, under the responsibility of the FIG development programme.
During this phase, IRCOS footage will be marketed to the public in order to expand the selection, and offer access to exclusive data. The market is small, since we're dealing with a very specialised field. We're not expecting any financial gain from this. Our objectives are elsewhere.
The next step is rich in promise but is still beyond our reach. It means getting the IRCOS feed on the network as part of the host broadcaster's integrated signal during competition.
This project represents Phase III of IRCOS' development.
However, the effects of the revolutionary introduction of a new angle on competition gymnastics, through which TV viewers are taken to the standing of judge, should be closely and carefully looked into, especially where commercial rights and the protection of data are concerned.
The FIG is proud and fully conscious of the progress IRCOS made possible in sensitive areas such as Judging, Education and Communication, with the immediate upshots of spectacular improvement in their corresponding areas, those being:
- Sport justice;
- Gymnast health,
- Information from the public.
IRCOS is the fruit of a fundamental reflection made by those who have or occupy FIG responsibilities. For ages, a number of more or less successfully completed projects have attempted to increase the quality of judging. IRCOS provides revolutionary solutions in assistance to judges, yet as sophisticated as it may be, the system has no direct influence on justice in sports and the behaviour of its users. IRCOS is a tool in the hands of a user wholly unconnected with itself.
The dawning of this project, which brought with it the concept of objection in November 2005, has had an impact on behaviour. To legitimately object, with images in hand, is a decisive element in the shaping of sport justice.
With IRCOS, the FIG fired a signal for those who doubted its will to triumph.
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