Olympics scandal: playing to lose in … badminton

posted at 3:16 pm on August 1, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

One can understand the pressure to throw games in the Olympics, right?  I mean, all that heavy money coming down in Vegas and Atlantic City could mean that someone can make a killing on … badminton?

Eight female badminton doubles players were disqualified Wednesday from the London Olympics after trying to lose matches to receive a more favorable place in the tournament.

The Badminton World Federation announced its ruling after investigating two teams from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia. It punished them for “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. …

The competition was to continue later Wednesday. It was unclear if four eliminated teams would be placed into the quarterfinals or if the competition would restart at the semifinal stage.

Wow!  Who knew that badminton was such a cutthroat sport?  Next we’ll hear that synchronized swim teams routinely kick out of step in the early rounds to stoke viewer interest.  In both cases, viewer interest could hardly be hurt.

Actually, that’s not entirely true in this shuttlecock scandal.  The Olympics changed format in the tournament from an elimination structure to a round-robin before the semi-finals.  That change prompted teams to start strategically losing in order to gain more favorable matchups, a problem that actually predated this Olympiad in the sport.  This led to an inevitable scenario in which both teams on the court started playing to lose.  The crowd, which apparently expected an exciting match, started booing loudly.  That finally caught the attention of officials in the sport’s governing body, which suspended the four teams that couldn’t do a better job of hiding their Chip & Dale “no, after you” strategy.  Their first clue: the spectators were actually awake enough to boo.

Is this really “cheating,” though, as it’s customarily understood?  The Olympics provided a set of incentives with its round-robin formula to which teams responded naturally.  If they want participants to play to win at all times, then perhaps they should craft the tournament structure so that it doesn’t reward losses by superior teams, which is exactly what this tournament did. If they do that, well, viewer interest in badminton may eventually surpass that of … rhythmic gymnastics.

Update: Link fixed … but it’s interesting that it took 40+ comments before anyone noticed that it was broken.


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Comment pages: 1 2

hawkdriver on August 1, 2012 at 4:43 PM

Facepalm….

oldroy on August 1, 2012 at 4:56 PM

It was intended to be a groaner. But, “facepalm”?

hawkdriver on August 1, 2012 at 7:32 PM

Meh.
Women’s Badminton could be a lot bigger spectator sport if they’d wear beach-volleyball uniforms. IYKWIMAITYD.

bofh on August 1, 2012 at 9:23 PM

Is this really “cheating,” though, as it’s customarily understood?  The Olympics provided a set of incentives with its round-robin formula to which teams responded naturally.

As I believe the Instapundit is fond of observing, incentives work, even when they’re perverse.

RINO in Name Only on August 2, 2012 at 1:09 AM

I can’t blame them for wanting to lose their way to gold. They didn’t set up the rules that incentives losing the match. It is The Badminton World Federation that should be punished for setting up rules that requires teams to lose in order to win. How lame is that?

Dollayo on August 2, 2012 at 1:18 AM

Is this really any different than Michael Phelps “losing” his heat in the semifinals to save his best stuff for the final? Why not throw him out of the Olympics?

kpguru on August 2, 2012 at 9:55 AM

“You PLAY to WIN the game!” Full Stop. Period. End of discussion. You play to win. We’ve gone so far in this country and in “sports” as to now think that “gaming the system” is all part of sport. BS. You play to win, and you win, and lose for that matter, w/ honor. It matters not who the competition might be, the format of the game(s), or if it’s the olympics, little league, backyard pick-up, the NFL, NBA or NHL or whatever, you play to win. There is no in-between, and making excuses for these 8 players and how it was “the tournament format” that made them do this, is BS too. You play to win!

Tom66 on August 2, 2012 at 10:42 AM

You play to win!

Tom66 on August 2, 2012 at 10:42 AM

They were. The rules change created a situation where losing early could mean a better chance at a gold medal. Isn’t a gold medal the whole point in the olympics? Wouldn’t you call that “winning”?

runawayyyy on August 2, 2012 at 3:23 PM

The rules change created a situation where losing early could mean a better chance at a gold medal.

Spare me the splitting of hairs. It’s not the “format’s” fault. Read my post, play to win, and by winning it means beating the competition in front of you, not who you think you might play, should you lose. That’s a bunch of crappola. This is the problem w/ sports today. Too many excuses and trying to “game” it out. What happened to lining up in whatever sport it is and playing hard, playing as best as one can, and in the end no matter whether winning or losing, it’s done w/ respect and honor and the notion that the contest is played as hard as possible.

Tom66 on August 3, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Comment pages: 1 2