August 2, 2012
Most athletes are caught cheating trying to win games. However, this theory was put to the test recently at the current Summer Olympics in London, England when several of them brought the Games and sports in general into disrepute by actually trying to lose. The twist in the tale took place on July 31 when chaos reigned in the women’s badminton tournament. Four doubles teams all tried to lose on purpose so they would get a more favorable opponent in their next round. To make matters worse, the wanna-be losers were all playing against each other.
The games took place at Wembley Arena between teams from Indonesia, South Korea, and China, and saw players deliberately misplaying shots and driving their serves into the net to concede points. The fans didn’t take too kindly to the blatant display of unsportsmanlike behavior and began to jeer, boo, and verbally abuse them. The BWF (Badminton World Federation) then investigated the matter and said if the players were attempting to throw their games that it wouldn’t be accepted and it’s not in the true spirit of sport. The organization said it’s embarrassing and also apologized to the public.
Two of the teams were from South Korea, and Sung Han-kook, their head coach, admitted they tried to lose their contests against the world-champion pair from China and an Indonesian pair. However, he claimed the Chinese players actually instigated it. He said the China’s pair of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang didn’t want to win because they might have to meet another Chinese team in the next round and they didn’t want to face them until the gold-medal match. Han-kook said when it became obvious what Xiaoli and Yang were trying to do, his women did the same as they didn’t want to meet another South Korean team in the semi final.
One of the tournament referees warned the teams they could be disqualified if they didn’t attempt to win. The longest rally in the first game was just four shots. The fans also jeered the players as they left the stadium floor. Li Yongbo, the head coach of the Chinese women said it was just a game and there wasn’t anything sinister going on before laughing and refusing to say anymore about the matter. The Chinese women said they were simply trying to conserve their energy for the knockout stages of the tournament since they had already qualified.
The same thing then took place shortly after when Kim Min-jing and Ha Jung-eun of South Korea took on Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari. Fans started to chant “get off” and a referee came onto the floor and disqualified both teams much to the pleasure of the crowd. However, after both coaches spoke to the referee, the decision was reversed and the game continued with the South Korean women winning. All four of the teams made it to the quarterfinal stage of the tournament after the incident.
However, they won’t be playing in them since all eight women were sent packing from the Games due to their display and four other pairs were restored to the event to take their place. After their investigation the BWF found the women brought the game into disrepute and decided enough was enough. South Korea appealed the decision, but it was dismissed, while China didn’t contest it and the Indonesians withdrew their appeal.
Thomas Lund, the secretary general of the BWF, said the regulations state that players must try to win games so they can’t manipulate future pairings and this obviously was a case of players trying to throw their games. The bad news for the fans was that there would be no refunds given to fans who had bought tickets to the farce.
There was also a bit of an uproar in the women’s soccer tournament when Japan didn’t try to win their last group-stage game against South Africa earlier in the day and were happy with a 0-0 draw. After the game, Japanese head coach Norio Sasaki said he told his team to play for a tie instead of a win so the team wouldn’t have to travel to Glasgow, Scotland for their quarterfinal game. A draw meant the team could remain in Cardiff, Wales, where the game against South Africa took place.
It’s also believed Sasaki thought Japan would get an easier game against England instead of having to play Brazil in the knockout stage, but England spoiled those plans by upsetting Brazil 1-0 to finish on top of their group. FIFA looked into the matter and said Japan wouldn’t face any discipline because they weren’t trying to lose and there wasn’t any collusion involved with any other teams.
Unfortunately, losing on purpose isn’t really anything new. Many badminton players said it goes on in their sport all-too frequently. Also, Swedish ice hockey player Peter Forsberg admitted last year that his team lost to Slovakia on purpose at the 2006 Games so they wouldn’t have to face Russia or Canada in the quarterfinals. Sweden then went on to capture the gold medal in Turin. There have also been allegations of teams bribing competitors to pull out of speed skating races in 2006.
While it’s obvious some athletes are actually attempting to lose now to win later by playing “easier” opponents, there hasn’t been any proof as of yet that the intentional losses are tied to gambling. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is working with Betfair to monitor Olympic gambling trends. But experts say most match-fixing and illegal gambling takes place in Asia since the British gambling industry is strictly monitored and regulated.