Olympic Badminton Players Game the System

It’s easy to view the games in London as an exhibit of what the human body can do when put to the test. Unfortunately, in many cases that same human body is being fed artificial substances that make it do un-natural things. Doping in sports is legend, and it finds its way into every training room. But this isn’t a treaty on the issue of drugs in the veins of athletes. It is something more far reaching than the modern phenomenon of human growth hormones. It’s called…

Gaming the system.

Badminton officials took the extraordinary step of tossing out four pairs of women — two from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia — for deliberately trying to lose their preliminary matches Tuesday night, the latest judging controversy to sweep through the Olympics.

The federation determined at a disciplinary hearing that the players in two separate matches tried to serve into the net and hit shots out of bounds. Their play led to hoots and catcalls from the packed house at Wembley Arena, with some fans yelling, “Off, off, off.” In one match, a Danish umpire warned the players that they could be thrown out by flashing a black card, a rare action in the sport.

Why would anyone who has trained for years to get to the Olympic Games in the hopes of winning a medal do something as stupid as this? Throwing a game? Really? The explanation is rather simple.

Even before the disqualifications, the matches Tuesday triggered hand-wringing throughout the sport. This is the first Olympics to include preliminary rounds in which four teams play one another once to determine who will advance to the knockout stage. The extra preliminary round was designed to give all teams — including those from weaker countries that might have been knocked out after one match under the old rules — a chance to play at least three times.

All four pairs who played Tuesday had secured spots in the quarterfinals, so jockeying for an opponent — not winning or losing — was the imperative.

Because the Chinese so dominate the sport and are so numerous in the tournament, they have an incentive not to play one another when possible. And because they are so good, teams from other countries do their best to avoid the Chinese until they have no choice.

Throwing matches has been a persistent problem, and some players and officials have accused the Chinese of being the worst offenders.

Bottom line? Officials inserted the extra preliminary round to give weaker teams another shot at winning, even after they proved themselves unworthy of championship play.

Kind of like giving everyone a trophy.

Better yet, call it, T-Ball.

I don’t get it. If your country doesn’t have a Badminton team it can field that can survive with the toughest (in this case, the Chinese), then why enter the championship at all? Are Olympic officials hoping for a rare moment where the Chinese completely choke and the team from the Cook Islands wins gold? What’s the likelihood of that? A million to one?

Or is it merely that the fix is in? Are the Olympics so tainted by money and political prowess that they’ve become the modern day Twenty-One?

Where is the crack unbiased investigative reporter when you need one? Oh wait, I already know that answer. There are none.

In the 24/7 wired world we live in, hi-jinks like this will be easier to expose. I think it is more widespread than most people realize, and I’m worried now that the games have been tainted for decades. We’re due an Olympic sized overhaul of athletic competition. Does the will exist to bring the games back to their original intention?

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