When Adults Playing Badminton Becomes “Nonsense”
The Olympics are in full swing, and in addition to the heart-felt stories of triumph, there’s been more than a few embarrassing gaffes on the part of IOC. There was the ridiculous rule of “only two per country” that got put on display in the women’s all-around gymnastics qualifier, the North Korean soccer team got introduced under the South Korea flag (whoops), a South Korean fencer was robbed in the semifinals when a clock error allowed an extra second for her German counterpart to score the winning point (the South Korean fencer then sat on the floor for over an hour, an emotional wreck, while her country appealed the decision and lost), Japan appealing the men’s gymnastics judging with a hand full of cash (which looks suspicisios) to get awarded the silver over Great Britain, and NBC has been taking a public beating for their tape-delayed and xenophobic coverage of these Olympic games. Well, time to add one more embarrassing black eye to the list!
On Wednesday, four women’s badminton teams were kicked out of the doubles competition for trying to throw matches, which the IOC takes very seriously. From ESPN:
“We applaud the federation for having taken swift and decisive action,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told The Associated Press. “Such behavior is incompatible with the Olympic values.”
IOC vice president Craig Reedie, the former head of the international badminton federation, welcomed the decision to kick the four teams out.
“Sport is competitive,” Reedie told the AP. “If you lose the competitive element, then the whole thing becomes a nonsense.
Yeah, this is what it took for badminton to look like nonsense. Sure.
The eight women, four from China and two from Indonesia and South Korea, were caught intentionally trying to lose their matches during pool play. The ruse became painfully obvious when the teams squared off (Chinese team A vs Indonesia, Chinese team B vs South Korea) and NOBODY WAS TRYING TO WIN THE MATCH. That would be like two boxers who had both agreed to take a dive just circling each other waiting for the other to throw a punch; painfully obvious. The London crowd rightfully booed.
South Korea and Indonesia both appealed the decision, with the Indonesian coach adamantly claiming that the Chinese had been throwing matches before this, and the judges hadn’t done antying about it. South Korea’s appeal was quickly denied and Indonesia revoked their appeal, likely after it was explained that “Well, they did it first,” is not an appropriate excuse for bad behavior when you’re six so it won’t fly at the Olympics. The Chinese accpeted the disqualification without appeal. They’re winning enough medals in swimming anyways.
But the fault may not be entirely with the athletes. Normally, badminton tournaments use a very straight-forward “lose and you’re out” method to crown a champion. For some reason, the international badminton federation (which apparently exists?) decided to switch it up and go to a round robin, pool play, much like soccer does for the very first time…at the Olympics. Nothing like going in blind to the biggest sports competition in the world.
One of the drawbacks to this system (which people pointed out beforehand) was that it opened the door to rewarding teams that lost matches with better draws in the final tournament. The Chinese teams were trying to lose to get put on opposite ends of the tournament, increasing their chances of meeting in the finals. The Indonesia and South Korean teams were trying to lose to avoid playing the Chinese in the opening round. So really, they were all trying to lose…so they could ultimately win?
The Olympic committee likely won’t see it quite like that. They’re more black and white, seeing things as only right or wrong. What these athletes did was wrong according to the letter of the law, but nobody at the IOC is going to ask “yeah, but is this just a dumb rule/way of doing things?” That’s why we won’t likely see changes that will keep something like this (or any of the other snafus we’ve seen) from happening again in four years. Plus, badminton? In the Olympics? Reeeeally?