In it to win it, or fix it?

By Katie Garner

Watching some of the women’s singles games in the badminton last night, I was shocked to suddenly hear boos ring out around the famed Wembley Arena, the dressed up pink venue for the badminton.  The commentators, including my personal hero Gail Emms, were quick to point out that the audience weren’t reacting to the game we were currently viewing, but the one being played on the next court.

It appeared that it wasn’t just the usual tactics of front and back with court rotation that were being played by the Chinese women’s doubles team, instead it was underhand match fixing, that ultimately aimed to get as many Chinese pairs in the final as possible, with as little work as they could get away with.  The Chinese were playing the South Korean women in the group stages still of the badminton, but with even the simplest of shots sinking into the net, or skidding out of court; question marks were being raised from quite early on about what exactly the motives of the Chinese pairing were. Apparently, the Chinese pairing were actually aiming to throw the match so that they could avoid another strong Chinese couple in the next round and instead opt for the easier match of the group stages.

Once opponents South Korea had twigged on to this, they very soon followed suit. It’s no surprise that with both pairs chucking away the game that angered viewers were demanding refunds on their £80 tickets.

The Badminton World Federation have charged the pairs with ‘not using one’s best efforts to win a match’ and the possibility that the pairs could now be expelled from the games is a very real, and satisfying, one. Legend Emms told the Evening Standard “It was disgraceful. They should disqualify the four pairs.”

South Korean coach Sung Han-kook really put his foot in it by openly admitting that his team were trying to lose the match, but he also adamantly insisted that it was because of the Chinese starting it, that they merely followed the Chinese tactic when they realised what they were playing at. Maybe in a weird way it was a form of self-defence for them, with China in general being incredibly dominant in the badminton. If even the Chinese didn’t want to play their own team mates, maybe this put doubt and fear into the South Koreans? Maybe they just wanted to play the Chinese at their own game, making them actually work at losing, annihilating any respect for the players.

The Chinese were ultimately playing a long game, where their tactics even extended to which pairs they would prefer to play. If the Chinese had lost the game, then the two best medal hopes would then be in opposing sides of the draw, meaning that they had the opportunity to face each other in the final, guaranteeing extra medals for the Chinese squad.  This isn’t the first, and I doubt it will be the last, time the finger has been pointed at the Chinese in this way.

“It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts” reads the famous saying. I have always disagreed with this statement. Always. Part of the passion of sport is the natural competitiveness that we foster, the instinctual gut reactions that see us push our bodies to the absolute extremes just to play that extra shot in the rally, jump higher for the perfect smash, or rein in rushing adrenaline for the spot on placement.  We play sport for the love of it, but also for the love of winning and being the best in our field. We don’t necessarily play just to take part, but to test, challenge and develop ourselves. For players of such excellent quality to take these fundamental elements out of their game, is not only baffling and surely against every natural emotion you may be feeling, but it is disrespectful towards all those pairs who played their socks off and still couldn’t get through. I think anyone who loves badminton feels amazing disappointment towards how the Chinese behaved. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this is isolated, and that they come to their senses over their actions, otherwise they shouldn’t be allowed to enter again.