So far the most interesting scandal of the London 2012 Olympics has been the match-fixing in badminton. Yep. The shuttlecock for four Asian teams has taken its final dive.
It appears the landslide of lazy play started with a Chinese pair attempting to lose so as not to face a fellow Chinese team in the semifinal round. (They were attempting to shift into a different bracket.)
The opposing South Korean team quickly caught onto the ruse (if you could call serving repeatedly into the net a ruse) and attempted half-heartedly to under play the underplayers. Things spiraled from there in a manner most Westerners would consider comical but most Easterners considered shameful.
China’s defending olympic champion announced her retirement (as yet unconfirmed by the Chinese authorities). Overall, four teams where disqualified and sent home.
I realize there are some cultural differences at play here. Badminton to me is a backyard game played between siblings and cousins. The main impetus to keep the “birdie” aloft is to keep the dog from chewing it up thus prematurely ending the game.
But why should anyone be surprised by this sort of play? NBA fans have come to expect it. Not that pro franchises in the U.S. are trying to lose, so much as they are trying to win with as little expenditure as possible until the playoffs.
That same phenomena is at play in olympic badminton, is it not? These teams weren’t trying to lose it all. They were simply trying to find the easiest way to win at the big dance. This is what professional athletes are all about.
That is exactly the reason the olympics should try harder to consist of amateur sports. Barring that (seeing how it’s pretty unrealistic at this point), the International Olympic Committee should forfeit its rose-tinted glasses and endeavor to structure contests around the lazy-pro-athelete mentality.
Rather than pretending these athletes will uphold some higher moral standard while playing for olympic medals and then punishing them when they get busted for not doing so, competition should be structured such that any and all means can be taken toward victory (via single elimination, etc.).
If throwing a match can be considered a winning strategy then how can authorities blame pro-atheltes for trying it? Hell, if I could sell more of my books by writing a crappy one, I’d do it!