Four badminton teams were kicked out of the women's doubles at the London Games on Wednesday for trying to lose on purpose, conduct that a top IOC executive said strikes at the heart of Olympic competition.
The eight doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were cited by the Badminton World Federation for "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport."
U.S. & World
"We have to be clear, there has been a problem here and we have to take that problem very seriously," BWF secretary general Thomas Lund said. "There are things we can improve on and look at after this competition."
South Korea and Indonesia appealed the disqualification, but the BWF rejected the South Korean appeal and the Indonesia challenge was withdrawn. China had accepted the federation's earlier decision.
The competition was to continue later Wednesday with four previously eliminated teams in the quarterfinals. Russian pair Valeria Sorokina and Nina Vislova, and Canadian team Alex Bruce and Michele Li now advance from Group A. Australian pair Leanne Choo and Renuga Veeran and South African duo Michelle Edwards and Annari Viljoen go through from Group C.
"We applaud the federation for having taken swift and decisive action," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told The Associated Press. "Such behavior is incompatible with the Olympic values."
Before the decision was announced, Indonesia Olympic team leader Erick Thohir accused Chinese players of losing on purpose in the past.
"China has been doing this so many times and they never get sanctioned by the BWF," Thohir said. "On the first game yesterday when China did it, the BWF didn't do anything. If the BWF do something on the first game and they say you are disqualified, it is a warning for everyone."
IOC Vice President Craig Reedie, the former head of the international badminton federation, welcomed the decision to kick the four teams out.
"Sport is competitive," Reedie told the AP. "If you lose the competitive element, then the whole thing becomes a nonsense.
"You cannot allow a player to abuse the tournament like that, and not take firm action. So good on them."
The eight disqualified players are world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na, along with South Korea's Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia's Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii.
The players went before a disciplinary hearing Wednesday, a day after spectators at the arena booed their performance after it became clear they were deliberately trying to lose.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge had been at the venue but had left shortly before the drama unfolded. The IOC said it would allow badminton's ruling body to handle the matter.
Paul Deighton, chief executive officer of the London organizers, said there would be no refunds for the evening's badminton program. Chairman Sebastian Coe called what happened "depressing," adding "who wants to sit through something like that?"
Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. The round-robin format can allow results to be manipulated to earn an easier matchup in the knockout round.
The Chinese players tried to rig the draw after its second-seeded pair unexpectedly lost to a Danish team in the morning. That placed the No. 2 pair on course for a semifinal meeting with Wang and Yu, instead of the final.
Wang and Yu then deliberately set out to lose so they would go into the bottom half of the draw. They hardly exerted themselves, and neither did the South Koreans, drawing jeers of derision from the crowd and warnings from the umpire and tournament referee Torsten Berg. Wang and Yu eventually got what they wanted by losing.
An hour later, the South Korean team of Ha and Kim took to the court and decided to also try to lose to the Indonesians to avoid meeting Wang and Yu in the quarterfinals. Early on, all four players were warned by the umpire for not trying hard, and Berg returned and produced black cards to disqualify both pairs, but the cards were rescinded on a promise of better play.
In the third game, Berg reappeared to urge them to finish, and the Indonesians ended up being better at losing than Ha and Kim, who fell into the playoff they didn't want with the world champions.
One of the world's top male players, 2004 Olympic singles champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, called the situation a "circus match."
China's Lin Dan, the Olympic men's champion in singles, said the sport is going to be damaged.
"Especially for the audience," he said through an interpreter before the disqualifications were announced. "This is definitely not within the Olympic spirit. But like I said before, it's not one-sided. Whoever sets the rule should make it knockout so whoever doesn't try will just leave the Olympics."
Beijing badminton silver medalist Gail Emms said the matches were embarrassing to watch.
"It was absolutely shocking," she said. "The crowds were booing and chanting 'Off, off, off.'"