Thanks To Some Allegedly-Match-Throwing Badminton Players, We Have Ourselves An Olympic Scandal
Glenn Davis 10:16 am, August 01st, 2012
Yeah, you love the competition of the Olympics, you love the spirit of community and the way the event allows so much of the world to come together as one... but let's face it, what you really love is controversy. Japan handing over some money while filing a scoring appeal in gymnastics? It sounded promising, but they were just following protocol. A protest over a fencing decision that left the defeated in tears? Getting warmer, but it can't compete with what a few women's badminton teams from China, South Korea, and Indonesia have given us.
So what have they given us, exactly? How about a bona fide match-throwing scandal, complete with eight players getting thrown out of the Olympics altogether? And while the South Korean and Indonesian teams are appealing the decision, based on comments of people who saw it, it didn't look good:
The federation found the players guilty of "not using one's best efforts to win a match" and "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport" in matches Tuesday night.
Players were roundly booed after they appeared not to exert themselves in preliminary rounds of the round-robin tournament before they were set to move on to elimination competition.
The key phrases here are "in preliminary rounds" and "move on to elimination competition" - it appears these teams weren't trying to crash out of the tournament, but attempting to position themselves to get more favorable matchups later on. In other words, yes, this was the badminton version of tanking to try to get a better draft pick (or playoff seed, for that matter)... and needless to say, that strategy backfired.
Well, assuming it was a strategy. Imagine how tough on the disqualified players it would be if their repeated serves into the net were simply a result of them having especially terrible games - the shame of playing so badly that everyone thought the only possible explanation was that you were trying to lose. We're not saying it's likely, just that it would be the ultimate insult. (Maybe I only consider that possibility because badminton used to cause some sort of bizarre Knoblauchian mental block to me, to the point I couldn't even serve. Of course, the disqualified competitors in question are actually, you know, good.)
Either way, it's tough to see the filed appeals working out for the players involved - not when the IOC vice president applauds the decision, not when London Olympics chairman Sebastian Coe called the controversy "unacceptable" and "depressing." Maybe the format of the tournament will be changed to a pure knockout format, as one men's player suggested, so that not trying wouldn't be an option. But if that change doesn't come: enjoy your scandal, everybody!
Getty photo, by Michael Regan
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