Wednesday, August 01, 2012

China, S Korea & Indonesia in match fixing farce

After Olympic ticket fiascoes come accusations of doping and match fixing, with China being under particular scrutiny. And such issues are likely to overshadow sporting achievements and taint the reputation of the Olympics, and some participating countries.


On Tuesday spectators at Wembley Arena booed as the Olympic women's doubles badminton competition descended into farce with four pairs deliberately playing to lose.

Players served into the net, hit shots long or wide, and employed time-wasting tactics as they appeared to try to engineer a favourable draw in the next round of the competition.

All four pairs, one from China, two from South Korea, and another from Indonesia, had already qualified for the last eight but top spots were still to be settled.  The accused players are China's  Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang, South Korean players Kim Ha Na, Jung Kyung Eun Jung Eun Ha and Min Jung Kim, and Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari of Indonesia

Black card

The fiasco began with Chinese top seeds Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang showing little interest in beating Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na to finish top of Group A, thus attempting to avoid playing compatriots and second seeds Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei at least until the final.

Four of the eight players involved were shown the black card of disqualification by the tournament referee at one point, but this was rescinded on protest.


There were boos and heckles from an irate crowd both during the matches and when the players left the court. "The crowds were booing. Everyone knew what was going on,"  retired English badminton silver medallist Gail Emms told the BBC, "They were shouting off, off, off".

If not acting quickly the IOC and other bodies may be able to do little. "I personally think something should've been done late last night and all four pairs should have been disqualified," Emms said, "For the future of the Olympic Games and our sport somethings needs to be done." Emms had earlier vented her anger on her Twitter account, calling the apparent decision to allow the four pairs to continue in the competition "disgraceful" [Twitter].

She also expressed her exasperation over the IOC's handling of the matter. "IOC have issued a statement saying they have confidence that the World Badminton Federation will referee the situation. I don't!!" [Twitter]. "I feel drained, dismayed, frustrated and really peed off that this has been allowed to happen," Emms add [Twitter]. The frustration and anger was also displayed by fans that had paid hundreds of pounds to see the farcical performances of the Asian players.


Sung Han-Kook, the South Korean coach, effectively admitted they had deliberately tried to throw the match but blamed the Chinese for initiating it. "The Chinese started this. They did it first. It's a complicated thing with the draws. They didn't want to meet each other in the semi-final," Sung said.

After the Chinese set the precedent, the South Korean pair in the second match deliberately emulated the Chinese tactic because they did not want to face their team mates in the quarter-finals. "Because they don't want to play the semi-final against each other, so we did the same. We didn't want to play the South Korean team again," he added.

Petya Nedelcheva, the Bulgarian women's singles 15th seed who had been playing on an adjacent court at the time of the first incident, was forthright in her general criticism and of the Chinese in particular.

"China control everything. I don't know who controlled the match to lose but if it is China again, they did it so many times last year, they didn't play against each other in 20 matches. They do what they want."

Her comments are seemingly supported by figures compiled by online magazine Badzine earlier this year which show that of the 99 all-Chinese matches played in major tournaments in 2011, 20 were walkovers[Sky / BBC / Telegraph / Guardian / Independent / Daily Mail].

Doping row

China has also courted controversy over the performance of young swimmer Ye Shiwen who has been forced to fend off questions and insinuations of cheating in a doping row, despite there being no actual evidence to prove any wrongdoing.

The 16-year-old's 396-strong team and the Chinese media contingent at the Olympic Park in east London are said to be furious at the accusations. Xu Qi, head of the Chinese swimming team, summed up the mood in the camp, saying "Ye Shiwen has been seen as a genius since she was young, and her performance vindicates that." Speaking to the state news agency Xinhua he said, "If there are suspicions, then please lay them out using facts and data. Don't use your own suspicions to knock down others. This shows lack of respect for athletes and for Chinese swimming."

While the International Olympic Committee [IOC] hinted on Tuesday that Ye had not tested positive for drugs, her record performance has heightened skepticism amongst some that she may have use performance enhancing drugs or other substances.

The accusations stem from a sordid past when many Chinese athletes were found to have been using drugs in the 1990s [Telegraph]. But there is also a sense of pure jealousy and general anti-Chinese hostility verging on racism, according to Chinese media [Guardian].


There seemed to a retaliatory move by China Wednesday after Michael Phelps, the American swimmer, was himself accused by the Chinese of taking performance enhancing drugs. Doctor Chen Zhanghao, who led medical staff at four previous Olympic games, said he believed Phelps, who yesterday became the greatest-ever Olympian, was guilty of doping [Daily Mail].

China's Olympics spokesman said they were to investigate Tuesday night's badminton incident according to Reuters citing Chinese news agency Xinhua. However, the row is unlikely to go away. Accusations of doping, tit-for-tat reactions, and now match fixing will sully China's reputation on the sporting stage and overshadow its performance so far at the Olympics.


China so far leads the ranking in the number of medals it has won taking 23 in all, 13 of them gold. The US has also taken 23 medals though only 9 gold.

Team GB meanwhile has trailed behind, taking only two silver and two bronze medals, even falling behind the likes of the DPRK [North Korea] and Kazakhstan both of whom have taken 3 gold medals.

The poor performance for Team GB thus far prompted several UK papers to run with messages of encouragement calling on both supporters and participants to "Keep Calm and Carry On" [Telegraph / Daily Express / Evening Standard]. The Guardian even offered a free post in its Wednesday edition, and a download of the same via its website.

Update: all 8 players involved in Tuesday's misconduct have been disqualified [BBC]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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