LONDON, England ● The disqualification of eight women badminton players from the London Olympics for ‘throwing’ their matches to secure a more favourable draw sent shockwaves through the tournament on Wednesday, and prompted cries of injustice from team officials.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) said it had expelled four women’s doubles pairs from the Chinese, South Korean and Indonesian teams after they had deliberately played to lose their matches in Tuesday’s evening session, provoking jeers from the crowd at Wembley Arena .
The decision knocked out China’s world champion pair of Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli along with South Korean pairs Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, and Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung.
Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari were also expelled for their involvement in the tainted matches on Tuesday.
Spectators booed as shuttlecocks were deliberately hit out of court, and serves dumped into the net.
A BWF panel issued the decision after a hearing on Wednesday where charges of “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” were brought against the players.
Both the Indonesian and South Korean teams were appealing. China, blamed by the South Korean team as the instigator of Tuesday’s farce, made no comment.
“We come here not to lose medals, we want to have medals,” the head of the Indonesian Badminton Association Erick Thohir said.
“There is no direction from the Indonesian Badminton Association to tell the players to lose. I think to blame China is also not fair.
“I think the BWF (Badminton Wold Federation) should take a look at the history of the last tournaments before they make judgements.”
The disqualification polarised players and team officials at Wembley Arena. While some regarded it as unduly harsh, others welcomed it as a good precedent for the sport, which has been dogged by complaints from players about similar manipulations in other tournaments.
Most pointed the fingers at the Chinese team for creating the scandal.
“I can say China has played dirty,” said Poland’s Korean head coach Young Man Kim. “Unsportsmanship. They fixed the matches, that’s why everything is messy here.”
Players slammed the BWF for instituting a format that was ripe for manipulation.
Badminton officials introduced a preliminary pool round for London after starting the tournament with knockout rounds in previous Games. Denmark’s head coach called for it to be overhauled, given it was prone to manipulation.
“Why would the tournament rules people have (a format) like this?” men’s singles world number one Lin Dan told reporters at Wembley Arena. “If they just had a knockout round it would all be fine. You lose and that’s it,” the Chinese added.
Danish mixed doubles player Thomas Laybourn spoke of a “tragic” situation in which the scandal had overshadowed the genuine competitors and blackened the sport’s name.
“I heard the news yesterday and everyone was talking about this and all the newspapers were writing about it, so in the end it could mean that badminton is being taken off the Olympic programme in 2020,” Laybourn told Reuters.
“When something like this happens it’s not good publicity.”
The raging scandal completely overshadowed the competition on day five. With only the knockout matches to be played, the matches proceeded without incident in front of a near-capacity crowd.