The Badminton World Federation (BWF) – the governing body of the sport – has apologised after four pairs of women’s doubles players, including the top seeds, were thrown out of the Olympics for trying to purposely lose group stage matches so as to attain easier quarter-final draws.
“We are very, very sorry that this has happened, both for the players and for the sport,” said Thomas Lund, chief executive of the BWF. But addressing the media at Wembley Arena, where the previous evening crowds had booed and jeered leading players as they repeatedly hit shots wide or into the net, Lund rejected the notion that officials should have predicted the fiasco.
English badminton player Gail Emms, who won silver in the mixed doubles at the 2004 Games, said: “As soon as I heard about the group stage, six or seven months ago, I said: ‘That’s going to see people trying to fix the draw.’ I knew it could happen.”
The chaos began on Tuesday when a Danish pair unexpectedly beat a strong Chinese duo, thus taking first place in group D. This left the Chinese scheduled to meet the winners of group A. At the deciding group A match that evening it became clear that neither the Chinese top seeds, Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli, nor their South Korean rivals, Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, wanted to win and top their group.
The referee intervened several times to warn the players but they apparently did not pay heed as they continuously hit shots into the net and well outside the tramlines.
Similarly ridiculous antics followed in the next match as another South Korean duo, Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung, and Indonesian opponents Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii tried to lose and to ensure an easier draw by finishing second.
The matter was referred to the BWF and the eight players were charged with breaching two parts of the players’ code, “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”.
With IOC officials applauding tough action, it came as no surprise when the players were formally disqualified. Both the Indonesian and South Korean players appealed, leading to the highly unusual situation of the draw for the quarter-final being announced just half an hour before the matches were due to start. The appeals were unsuccessful.