Olympics Links: Badminton bombshell: four doubles teams disqualified for match-fixing

Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters

If you’re not up to speed on badminton’s big scandal, first go read this. And then realize that the IOC and Badminton World Federation just dropped the biggest bombshell of these Games by disqualifying four pairs of teams from the quarterfinals for match-fixing, including two teams — both South Korean (what is it with South Koreans and controversy?) — that won their matches. Read on.

Two articles about the controversy. First, from the New York Times:

Because the Chinese so dominate the sport and are so numerous in the tournament, they have incentive not to play one another when possible.

And because they are so good, teams from other countries do their best to avoid the Chinese until there is no choice.

Some former players and commentators in Britain called the play unsportsmanlike and an affront to the fans who paid dearly to see top-ranked players compete. But some of them accepted that players should not be blamed for playing strategically to win.

Other players blamed the badminton federation for not anticipating this kind of strategy when it redesigned the tournament.

“They should have thought ahead and seen that this kind of situation might happen and thought what they could have done to avoid this situation and stop it happening again in the future,” Lin Dan, the world’s best men’s singles player, who is from China, said after winning a match Wednesday. “Think in the U.K., would your football team want to meet Spain in the first round? Athletes think for themselves and would have their best interests at heart.”

Next, the Guardian:

The incidents prompted Gail Emms, the former British badminton star, to tell the BBC: “You cannot do this in an Olympic Games, this is something that is not acceptable … it was just disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful.”

Emms said that the potential for spot-fixing was raised in a managers’ meeting on Monday but that the referee had dismissed their concerns.

“All the managers got together with the referee and said: ‘Look, this has happened; in Group D you will find some very dodgy matches going on in the evening because of it’ and the referee laughed and said: ‘Oh don’t be silly,’” she said. “And the managers said: ‘We know the game, we know the players and we know the teams and we know this is going to happen.’”

She added: “Badminton, in the Olympics and in all tournaments across the circuit, it’s never played in a group stage, it’s always a straight knockout system and for some reason they decided that the Olympic Games in 2012 should be this group stages.

“And as soon as I heard that I went: ‘It’s going to bring up match-fixing,’ that was my first thought, and lo and behold last night that is exactly what happened.”

On Ye Shiwen’s victory yesterday, first we turn to Daily Mail:

After last night’s race, Miss Ye faced  a barrage of questions about alleged drugs use.

Speaking in her native language, she said at a press conference: ‘Of course I think this is a little bit unfair for me. However, I was not affected by that.’

She added: ‘I think that in other  countries, other swimmers have  won multiple golds and no one ever criticised them. How come people will  criticise me just because I have won multiple medals?’

She denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs, saying: ‘Absolutely not.’

The teenager said she had trained for five hours a day for nine years.

Olympic organisers warned that if there were drug cheats at London 2012 ‘they will be caught’, while Chinese team officials point out Miss Ye had been repeatedly tested and never failed.

And from Blogging is Pointless:

On the face of it, those statistics do look quite damning, don’t they? But, if you recall, I said at the top of this post that this was a story about two girls, not one, and it’s now time to talk about the other amazing teenaged Olympic champion swimmer at these games. She’s a 15 year old Lithuanian called Ruta Meilutyte, and she won gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke last night. This was a popular result in the Aquatic Centre, because Meilutyte lives in Plymouth, and is trained by English coach Jon Rudd. No-one expected her to make the final in London (never mind win a medal) because only a year ago, she set a new national record of 1:07.96, which would barely have got her into the semifinals in London. However, she won her semifinal in a time of 1:05.21 (a European record), and then went on to take gold in the final. Her win came as a massive shock, and was greeted rapturously by Clare Balding, who described it as “her favourite non-British story of the Games so far”. To the best of my knowledge John Leonard has yet to comment.

I want to be clear about this – I am not accussing Ryta Meilutyte of doping. I think she’s a phenomenal athlete, and I was as happy as anyone to see her win, and laughed like a drain at her brilliant post-race interview. But Ruta Meilutyte has improved her times by four percent in the last year. Ye Shiwen improved her times by two percent in the last two years. And yet, if I google “Ruta Meilutyte doping”, every first page result links to a news piece that talks about Ruta winning, and Ye doping.

The story of a Chinese gold medalist who went to Kazakhstan: “July 29th, Zulfiya, the Kazakhstan woman weight-lifting athlete, broke the world record and became the champion, earning the second gold medal for Kazakhstan. However, no one knew that this Kazakhstan weightlifter was a former Chinese athlete — former Hunan player, Zhao Changning (赵常宁).” [China Hush]

Wu Jingbiao’s tears of agony, examined. “While initial reports centered on possible causes of the unexpected defeat, Wu’s dramatic reaction soon came to dominate media attention. Sportscn.com was among the first to wonder why tears of frustration flowed when a silver medal should be celebrated – ‘to participate in the Olympic Games,’ the report opined, ‘is itself the highest honor.’ // …Users expressed sympathy for the distraught weightlifter rather than blame. Many of them wished Wu Jingbiao more progress in the future. Some netizens found it hard to understand why Wu Jingbiao cried over a silver medal at all.” [Tea Leaf Nation]

Asian American, 16, nearly upsets world’s No. 2 player. “Though Warren Buffett couldn’t be there to see Hsing’s remarkable run, the California teenager’s other rich uncle was able to make it to London to watch her play. ‘Nothing short of phenomenal,’ her pal Bill Gates said after Hsing’s valiant third-round loss. ‘She is amazing.’” [Slate]

The tweet that got a Swiss soccer player expelled: “He posted the message after playing in the 2-1 loss against South Korea on Sunday. He said in the tweet that South Koreans ‘can go burn’ and referred to them as a ‘bunch of mongoloids.’” [AP]

Boris Johnson does funny thing interlude, via Deadspin:


#NBCFail. [TechCrunch]

#NBCFail, part 2. [Guardian]

With the badminton controversy, it’s a fine time to relive the most bizarre soccer match ever, a 1994 Caribbean Cub game between Barbados and Grenada. [Bleacher Report]

Finally, finally…

Via Buzzfeed: “The Unnecessary Censorship Of Men’s Olympic Diving.”

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