Eight female badminton doubles players were disqualified today 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.
“We applaud the federation for having taken swift and decisive action,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told The Associated Press. “Such behavior is incompatible with the Olympic values.”
Erick Thohir, the head of Indonesia’s Olympic team, told the AP that the Indonesian team will appeal. The BWF said South Korea had also appealed.
The competition was to continue later today. The BWF said there would be quarterfinals in the women’s doubles, meaning at least one eliminated team would be placed into the last eight after the China team chose not to challenge the decision.
Thohir accused Chinese players of losing on purpose in the past.
“China has been doing this so many times and they never get sanctioned by the BWF,” Thohir said. “On the first game yesterday when China did it, the BWF didn’t do anything. If the BWF do something on the first game and they say you are disqualified, it is a warning for everyone.”
IOC Vice President Craig Reedie, the former head of the international badminton federation, welcomed the decision.
“Sport is competitive,” Reedie told the AP. “If you lose the competitive element, then the whole thing becomes a nonsense.
“You cannot allow a player to abuse the tournament like that, and not take firm action. So good on them.”
The eight disqualified players are world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na, along with South Korea’s Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia’s Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii.
The players went before a disciplinary hearing today, a day after spectators at the arena booed their performance after it became clear they were deliberately trying to lose.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge had been at the venue but had left shortly before the drama unfolded. The IOC said it would allow badminton’s ruling body to handle the matter.
Paul Deighton, chief executive officer of the London organizers, said there would be no refunds for the evening’s badminton program. Chairman Sebastian Coe called what happened “depressing,” adding “who wants to sit through something like that?”
Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. The round-robin format can allow results to be manipulated to earn an easier matchup in the knockout round.
The Chinese players tried to rig the draw after its second-seeded pair unexpectedly lost to a Danish team in the morning. That placed the No. 2 pair on course for a semifinal meeting with Wang and Yu, instead of the final.
Wang and Yu then deliberately set out to lose so they would go into the bottom half of the draw. They hardly exerted themselves, and neither did the South Koreans, drawing jeers of derision from the crowd and warnings from the umpire and tournament referee Torsten Berg. Wang and Yu eventually got what they wanted by losing.
An hour later, the South Korean team of Ha and Kim took to the court and decided to also try to lose to the Indonesians to avoid meeting Wang and Yu in the quarterfinals. Early on, all four players were warned by the umpire for not trying hard, and Berg returned and produced black cards to disqualify both pairs, but the cards were rescinded on a promise of better play.
In the third game, Berg reappeared to urge them to finish, and the Indonesians ended up being better at losing than Ha and Kim, who fell into the playoff they didn’t want with the world champions.
One of the world’s top male players, 2004 Olympic singles champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, called the situation a “circus match.”
China’s Lin Dan, the Olympic men’s champion in singles, said through an interpreter the sport is going to be damaged.
“Especially for the audience,” he said before the disqualifications were announced. “This is definitely not within the Olympic spirit. But like I said before, it’s not one-sided. Whoever sets the rule should make it knockout so whoever doesn’t try will just leave the Olympics.”
Beijing badminton silver medalist Gail Emms said the matches were embarrassing to watch.
“It was absolutely shocking,” she said. “The crowds were booing and chanting ‘Off, off, off.'”