All American eyes may be on the gold-winning women's gymnastics team, but scandal is currently rocking the badminton event. Eight pairs of athletes have been disqualified from competition after allegedly playing to lose their matches. In Olympic parlance, they were ejected for "not using one’s best efforts to win a match."
What makes the case particularly shocking is the caliber of the athletes in question. Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang, the top-ranked women's team from China, and Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, who are ranked third, are four of the eight disqualified. Presumably, the two pairs did not want to meet the number two team in the tournament, another pair from China, so early in the tournament.
Rob Broomby, a correspondent for the BBC, discusses the situation. "Badminton experts warned that this was a risk if you went, as they did a few years back, away from a knockout system to a sort of group game system, that people would try and plot this way through the group games," he says. With the new format, weaker teams are able to play more matches, but it does provide an incentive to strategically lose matches in order to avoid more challenging opponents early on.
"The fact is, for people who paid very, very good money, and many families who paid a huge amount of money to see these games, it was downright humiliating," he says. "Some of the best players in the world were standing right in front of the net, and apparently hitting the shuttlecock straight into it. There were rallies that lasted no longer than four shots, and in badminton, they go on for a good deal longer than that with a lot of drama."