TELEGRAPH UK - Four pairs in the women’s doubles were disqualified from the Olympics for underperforming in the final group stages on Tuesday night as they deliberately tried to lose by spraying shots wide or into the net to secure an easier quarter-final draw.
The players, the Chinese world champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang, Greysia Poli and Meiliana Jauhari of Indonesia and two South Korean pairs, Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, and Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min Jung, were jeered by the crowd.
The organising committee for the Games will not be offering refunds to spectators who attended on Tuesday evening, despite Lord Coe describing the incident as “depressing” and asking: “Who wants to sit through something like that?”
Officials from the sport’s governing body conducted a frantic round of meetings as they hastily arranged a disciplinary panel.
An official announcement of its findings was only made public as spectators took their seats for last night’s women’s doubles quarter-finals. Pairs from Canada, South Africa, Russia and Australia, who had thought their Olympics were over, had to hastily prepare for a return to court in front of a sell-out crowd.
“We found out we were playing at 3 o’clock,” said Michelle Edwards, of South Africa. “Everything was so last minute. We packed our bags, rush, rush, rush and here we are. The mental preparation was almost zero.”
South Africa lost 2-0 to Russia but Australia took Canada to three sets before losing.
The episode was deeply embarrassing for the badminton authorities who would have been aware that Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, recently described match fixing as the biggest threat to the Games.
With all athletes and coaches swearing to uphold the Olympic oath at the opening ceremony, this damaged the integrity of the Games.
The stakes were high for the badminton authorities with the prospect of two sports being removed from the Olympics before Rio 2016.
“We are very sorry this has happened,” said Thomas Lund, the chief operating officer of the badminton federation. “The most important thing is we dealt with the issue and did it in the best interests of the other players in this tournament.”
But while the administrators were lauding their disciplinary process the players were firmly pointing the finger at the sport’s authorities. The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this year they had been warned of manipulation when they changed the early stage of the Olympic competition to a round robin stage.
China has been accused of manipulating matches before but only ties involving two sets of their own players. This was more serious because it took place against a Korean pair.
“I have had volunteers really upset — they were crying because they couldn’t believe this was going on the Olympic Games,” said Gail Emms, the former British player who won silver in Athens.
“They have been working so hard to make this competition perfect and they have just seen four women’s doubles pairs not live up to what they believe in. There have been a lot of strong words.”
There was sympathy but also condemnation for the Chinese pair from their own countrymen. Lin Dan, the defending men’s singles Olympic champion, admitted Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang had discredited the sport.
“I think this is not in the Olympic spirit,” he said.
“To avoid this situation is very simple: just straight knock out.”
The scandal began when the Chinese top seeds Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang started to show little interest in beating the Koreans to finish top of Group A. By finishing second they would avoid compatriots and second seeds Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei at least until the final.
“What happened was just truly disgraceful,” said Emms. “This is the Olympic Games — it is not very much in the Olympic spirit.”