The Badminton World Federation disqualified eight badminton players—two from South Korea, and one each from China and Indonesia— from the London Olympics for trying to throw their matches to secure a favorable draw in the next round. The accusation was that these athletes “infringed on its players’ code of conduct by ‘not using one’s best efforts to win a match’ and ‘conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.’” The Indonesian and South Korean teams appealed immediately after the hearing, both of which were rejected later. On the other hand, China said it fully respects the decision.
But how Chinese netizens reacted to the decision? Definitely not “fully respect.” Many called the new move by the badminton federation to use a round-robin format, rather than a straight knock-out tournament, stupid and unfair. In the minds of Chinese netizens, the fault lies, first and foremost, on WBF (World Badminton Federation) who made a rule that benefits losing teams at the qualifying stage, and secondly, on Chinese badminton coaches and whoever came up with the “deliberately losing” strategy.
A lot of netizens argued that the unfair rule, rather than the athletes, should take the blame. Views that the badminton federation should be responsible for the farcical game on Tuesday evening dominated online discussions on the Chinese internet. Bai Yansong, famous Chinese TV host, as quoted by Sina Sports, took the side with the athletes: “When people judge these athletes on moral high grounds, has anyone thought in their shoes? If you win and are already qualified, would you fight another stronger team to death just to meet your own teammates in the next round? You won’t if you are not stupid or retarded. The unreasonable rule, not the athletes, is to blame. I encourage the Chinese team to make an appeal, not to change the punishment decision, but to change the rule. Any rule that merits the losers should be changed.”
Netizen 杨不难 echoed: “Regarding badminton games, I think that the unreasonable rule does more harm to the game than the athletes do. The west has the tradition of playing by rules ever since the Great French Revolution. Rules are to ensure fair play. I’m not saying that Chinese athletes cannot be punished. But there shouldn’t be any double standard. Playing smart within rules is not uncommon to see in other countries. The only thing is that we [China] win too much in badminton and there are a lot of jealous eyes around.”
Many netizens accused the new round robin format by the badminton federation a violation of Olympic spirits. As 天秤座兔仔commented: “They made such a rule to give more incentives to losing a game. Is that in the spirit of the Olympics? This is clearly the fault of a poorly-designed rule.” 寡GUY shared similar views: “The one who came with this new format must be retarded. I feel so sorry that our country hasn’t back these athletes up and made an appeal. Why on earth would these athletes fight to death when they know they are already qualified for the next rounds? The rule itself is a violation of Olympic spirits. Support Chinese athletes and condemn the IOC.” -阿部高和_鬼子BB- asked: “The unfair rule is the one to blame. Have anyone seen athletes deliberately losing in a straight knockout tournament?” AC千雪-米睿睿 was more blatant: “To suppress strong teams, they [World Badminton Federation] came up with such a stupid format. Now that they saw strong teams were employing strategies to keep their advantages, they found a reason to disqualify all of them.”
Chinese netizens also argued that “deliberately losing a game” is a strategy, not “cheating.” 山上的树2010 drew an analogy with other ball games: “So deliberately losing in other sports like soccer or basketball is OK, but in badminton is not?” 白-木-华 said angrily: “This is called strategy, not violation! Such strategies are very common in the Europe Cup.” 陸-學-聰 added: “Doesn’t everyone in track and field work to conserve energy and strength in prelims as long as they have enough lead to get into finals?”
The World Badminton Federation isn’t the only one that Chinese netiznes are furious about. Officials leading the Chinese Olympic team who accepted IOC’s disqualification decision without appealing are also a major target of netizens’ fury. Many netizens thought that the strategy must be the idea of the coach or some high-ranking team officials, and that the Chinese team should stand up and take action to support its own athletes. 白墨三 pointed out: “Athletes are the scapegoats here. They were just doing what they were told to do. It must be the coach or other higher-ranking officials who made the strategy to ‘lose a game’. The athletes have done nothing wrong.” minichopper agreed: ”This is pure disgusting. This [acceptance without appealing] is what they [The Chinese Olympic team] decided to respond? To suppress your own athletes to please the west! There is no appeal when there should be. There is no protection of your own athletes when there should be. Where are your balls?”
独恋Lv commented: “Down with the Chinese Olympic team. Would these athletes throw the game if they weren’t told to by their coaches? Instead of making an appeal, you [Chinese Olympic team] chose to put the blame on the two athletes who worked hard for this competition for 4 years. Do you understand what does it mean by standing behind your own people? Down with the coach team! This is a shame!” 简单–chb echoed: “This is definitely a lesson for those officials in the Chinese Olympic team to learn. Why the South Koreans can provide full support to their athletes and keep appealing? All that the Chinese officials know is to point fingers at our own athletes, which not only disappoints the athletes but all of us who are watching.”