To the eager journalist, the Olympic Green is a wealth of opportunity. Everyone from athletes to coaches to Debbie Phelps is wandering around, just waiting for someone to approach them, request a photo or stick a recording device in their face. Our first find: the First Family of Gymnastics, Nadia Comaneci and husband Bart Connor, who are in Beijing working for Mexican TV station Televisa. They'd just returned from a trek to the Great Wall with their three-year-old son Dylan and were visiting the Coca-Cola hospitality suite in the Sponsor Village, where Nadia was receiving the Live Positively award for her work with the Special Olympics.
So, since Nadia and her seven 10.0s at the 1976 Olympics made the "Perfect 10" a household term, we wanted to know what she thinks of gymnastics' new open-ended scoring system. And, what the heck, we asked her hubby, too.
Mag.Com: How has the experience of watching gymnastics changed?
Nadia: Something is missing. You remember when all the spectators used to buy those ten-point-0 signs and hold them up? They don't have them anymore. But what am I going to say? I am the one who put it on the map. Of course I miss it.
Bart: I was hoping they could re-do scoring system and retain the perfect 10. It's a brand identified with gymnastics, our most important brand, and we just threw it away. We lost something key to our identity.
Do you remember every perfect 10?
Bart: I do, because I only had three in my career. Nadia doesn't remember. She's had too many.
Nadia: Bart does, but I don't. Still, they were all special. Now it cannot happen. These gymnasts cannot make history. You can't make history with a 17.
How has it affected the crowds?
Nadia: They don't understand. They just see numbers and don't know what they mean. They don't have time to read the code of points. So sometimes they feel disappointed. If they see a routine they think should have a bigger score, they're going to boo.
Bart: I commentate collegiate gymnastics, where they still have the 10. This year, Florida hosted Georgia and at the end of the meet, the fans were at the edge of their seats. It all came down to the last landing and they thought they might see a 10. In college, they have a game going on.
Under the new system, an athlete with a high start value can perform a difficult routine poorly, even fall from the uneven bars, and still outscore an athlete with a perfectly executed, less-difficult routine. Thoughts?
Bart: With the new system, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. There is no middle class anymore. In this system, China is going to run off with it and no one is going to be able to catch them. At last year's world championships Li Shanshan from China fell on the beam and got the silver medal. I always used to hate that about figure skating. A skater could fall on their last jump and still win. I said, no gymnast could fall and still win. But we're almost to that point. If you have that high of a start value, we might see an athlete in the finals fall and get a medal. That will be a little weird.
Nadia: The FIG (Federation International of Gymnastics) should devaluate some difficult moves so there is more balance between the execution and difficulty scores. There were some execution scores of the Chinese in the 8s. (Out of 10.) There is some work to be done on execution to compensate with the start value (difficulty score). Right now, whoever has that build of the unique specimen who is able to learn the difficult moves is able to go higher and higher with their score. The others can just improve their execution. There has to be an ending to this.