Badminton Doubles Pairs Face Match-throwing ProbeJuly 31st, 2012 10:31 pm Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Badminton officials are investigating eight female players, including the reigning world champions from China, charged with trying to throw their matches at the London Olympics to secure a favorable draw.
The Badminton World Federation opened a hearing Wednesday to investigate the doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia under its players’ code of conduct with “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 hearing at a hotel near the Wembley Arena badminton venue in north London concluded just before noon local time and an announcement on the findings was expected during the afternoon. The South Korean team was first to be interviewed by BWF officials. Players and officials from China and Indonesia were being interviewed.
A spokeswoman for the federation, Gayle Alleyne, declined comment on possible sanctions ahead of the disciplinary hearings.
The International Olympic Committee said it would allow badminton’s ruling body to deal with the controversy.
“We have full confidence in the federation to take any necessary steps,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “They have the experience to deal with such issues.”
Paul Deighton, chief executive officer of organizing committee LOCOG, said there would be no refunds for the evening’s badminton program, while chairman Seb Coe said the incident was “depressing,” adding “who wants to sit through something like that?”
One of the world’s top male players, 2004 Olympic singles champion Taufik Hidayat, called the situation a “circus match,” and said he hoped the players were thrown out.
“If there’s going to be a disqualification, I’m happy,” Hidayat said. “I know I’m from Indonesia and the ladies doubles are from Indonesia, but it’s for the sport. It’s not sporting.”
A badminton official with knowledge of Tuesday’s incidents said the problems started when a Chinese pair lost unexpectedly to a Danish team. This meant that the top two seeded teams, both from China, would meet earlier than expected and one would eliminate the other earlier than the planned time, the final. The plan would be for China to win gold and silver but the Chinese pair needed to lose to avoid playing their fellow Chinese before the semifinal.
The official said such incidents were not rare, but had not been witnessed at such a high-profile event as the Olympics before.
“The Chinese have a habit of doing this but not at such a big event,” said the official, who remained anonymous because he did not have permission to speak publicly.
He said expelling the eight players from the tournament was a possibility, but that could result in Beijing withdrawing its entire badminton team, so the BWF may seek a compromise.
The doubles pairs were all due to compete in quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon.
China’s official Xinhua news agency cited an unnamed spokesman for the Chinese delegation as saying the delegation was taking the incident seriously and had ordered its own investigation.
“The Chinese delegation will handle this case according to the results of the investigation into this match,” the spokesman said.
World doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na were booed loudly by the crowd Tuesday after dumping serves into the net and making simple errors like hitting the shuttlecock wide.
The longest rally in their first game was only four strokes. The umpire warned them and tournament referee Torsten Berg spoke to all four players but it had little effect. At one stage Berg showed a black card which usually means disqualification, but the game continued.
Eventually, the Chinese women lost 21-14, 21-11 and both pairs were jeered off the court.
The teams had already qualified for the last 16, but the result ensured that the top-seeded Wang and Yu will avoid playing their No. 2-seeded Chinese teammates until the final.
The problem was repeated in the next women’s doubles between South Korea’s Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia’s Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. Both teams were also warned for deliberately losing points in a match the Koreans won 18-21, 21-14, 21-12. The capacity crowd vented their displeasure on them, too.
“If they play right, the Chinese team, this wouldn’t happen,” said South Korea head coach Sung Han-kook. “So we did the same because we don’t want to play Korea. Nobody likes playing against strong players.”
The South Koreans filed a protest with the referees.
“It’s not like the Olympics spirit to play like this,” Sung said. “How could the No. 1 pair in the world play like this? They start playing mistakes.”
Australia coach Lasse Bundgaard, who also lodged a protest, blamed the group format for the controversy.
“It’s not good when you create a tournament where the players are put in this situation,” he said. “If you can win a medal by losing, but not by winning, that’s not a good situation to be put in.
“I totally understand why they are doing it. Now the Indonesians are doing the same but it’s not a good situation to be put in.”
Beijing badminton silver medalist Gail Emms said the games had been embarrassing to watch and that the players could be thrown out of the tournament.
“It was absolutely shocking,” she said. “The crowds were booing and chanting ‘Off, Off, Off.’”
“This is London 2012. For the future of our sport and the Olympic Games something needs to be done.”