The Olympic spirit took a knock Wednesday with news that women badminton players had thrown their matches at the London Games to get easier rivals in the playoffs.
Reaction from the Badminton World Federation was swift: eight doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were disqualified from the Olympics for unsporting conduct, Indonesian Olympic team leader Erick Thohir told The Associated Press.
The Chinese were accused of starting the problem by deliberately losing a game Tuesday night. This led to other teams behaving in a similar way to try to force an easier quarterfinal draw. At one stage both teams appeared to be trying to lose a game. The crowd seemed to catch on, and booed.
“Depressing. Who wants to sit through something like that?” Sebastian Coe, chairman of the Olympic organizing committee, said.
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.”
Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. In the round-robin format, losing one game can lead to an easier matchup in the next round.
The embarrassment was tempered by some good news for the host nation: British rowers Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won the country’s first gold medal in women’s pair.
China’s badminton players were not the country’s only athletes to face scrutiny, as Beijing objected to speculation that China’s newest swimming superstar Ye Shiwen was doping.
The 16-year-old first came under suspicion when on Saturday she swam a lap in the women’s 400-meter individual medley a split-second faster than American winner Ryan Lochte. She also won Tuesday’s 200-meter IM race.
Ye’s father, Ye Qingsong, told Chinese media that western media are “always arrogant.” Olympic organizers in London also defended the Chinese swimmer.
It was not all bad news for China on Wednesday.
Tang Yi qualified fastest in the women’s 100-meter freestyle preliminaries, while Melanie Schlanger of Australia was second-quickest and world champion Jeanette Ottesen Gray of Denmark was third.