Olympic Badminton: Had the potential for match fixing been discussed previously?
Oh, for Richie Benaud to have cast a critical eye over proceedings in the Olympic Badminton this week. Or at least for him to have voiced his opinion for the world to hear. The wise old gentleman of Australian cricket would have, no doubt, condemned the athletes involved in London 2012’s latest scandal with more elegance than any mere mortal could possibly have done – just as he did with a certain Mr Chappell and “the most disgraceful thing ever seen on a cricket field”.
Certainly the attempt to manipulate the draw by throwing group games, as teams from China, South Korea and Indonesia were seen to do yesterday, has to rank pretty highly on the list of most disgraceful things ever seen on a badminton court.
Kudos, then, to the Badminton World Federation for acting quickly and disqualifying the teams in question. It was a clinical decision made at a critical point in what could have become – and may yet still, should the Korean and Indonesian appeals prove to be anything but unsuccessful – a very murky saga.
Certainly, the speed with which the BWF acted put the loud but ultimately inconsequential reactions of Olympic organisers to shame. For all the good intentions behind Lord Coe’s condemnations, it is, at the end of the day, decisive action which sets precedents for this kind of thing not becoming commonplace. As for Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, we can only assume that he was paid by a comedy agent for his contribution to the debate, saying that spectators “had the right to feel very, very let down by what happened.” Yes, that does sound familiar, Jeremy.
At face value, the whole thing stinks of farce. The verbal back and forth in which the Koreans blamed the Chinese and the Chinese came up with the excuse of fatigue bore a greater resemblance to a sketch with Harry Enfield’s scousers than it did a serious exchange between Olympic athletes.
The is a more sinister side to the entire mess, however, as Gail Emms’ words to the BBC following the eruption of media interest served to underline. According to the former GB badminton star, the potential for match fixing had been discussed previously with organisers and officials, and had been all too hastily dismissed.
If this was indeed the case, then there appears to be something truly rotten at the heart of Olympic badminton. Forget the petty debates over whether to have a McDonald’s at Wimbledon or whether Danny Boyle’s helicopter skit bore enough artistic value, the idea that the integrity of an Olympic event as popular and, at its best, as exciting, as Badminton could be under threat before the group stages had even kicked off is severely worrying.
Badminton is one of the most exhilarating sports to watch. It is the ultimate combination of athleticism, mental strength, innovation and creativity. For many people, moreover, the Olympics will be the only occasion on which they really get to watch the sport at its most competitive form. Given the strength of many Asian countries in the sport, it is often even more exciting when the countries in question are competing.
If the problem of dishonesty is as deep rooted as Emms suggests, then the reaction to this event must go further than, though not overlook, the simple disqualification of the athletes involved. This should not, and we must assume will not, be the end of the story.Tagged in: badminton, Badminton World Federation, Gail Emms, London 2012, Lord Coe, olympics, Sport
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