Bad Badminton

I read this story about some badminton players that were thrown out of the Olympics for intentionally losing a match.  In the words of Deadspin:

The Chinese team of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang and South Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na played a farce of a match in which players served into the net on purpose or lazily launched shots out of bounds. The Chinese players’ incentive to lose was a bracket placement that would keep them on the opposite side from the other top-ranked Chinese team, meaning they’d avoid facing them until the finals. The Koreans, having sensed the plot from Wang and Yu, attempted to lose themselves in response.

Wait.  What?  They were trying to lose the match on purpose to avoid playing a team that they didn’t want to play until the finals?  That seems like a totally rational thing to do.  The goal at the Olympics is to win a medal.  The goal is not to get as high a seed as possible coming out of pool play.  If you don’t want situations like this then, don’t play this format.  Sure, they were throwing the game, but they weren’t involved in a betting scandal or anything.  They were losing on purpose to give themselves, in their minds, the largest probability to win a medal.  Isn’t that the rational thing to do if your goal is to win a medal? And the goal is to win medals, right?  Right?

Now, you could look at this as China colluding to try to maximize the number of medals they can win.  By avoiding each other in the elimination rounds until the finals, they avoid eliminating each other from medal contention.  This might be frowned upon, but again, isn’t it the rational thing for the Chinese team to do?   I guess “always trying your hardest” is more of an Olympic ideal than “doing the rational thing”.



Posted on August 1, 2012, in Olympics. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m with you. They didn’t do anything against the rules. How is this any different than a swimmer not giving it everything in the preliminaries so that they have enough energy left for the finals.

    It’s the fault of the Olympic committee for making this even a possibility. Then they have the balls to tell the athletes they did something wrong? There’s not a single rule they can point to that they broke. Shame on the IOC.

    • There are two competing interests here: what’s best for the athlete an what’s best for the IOC. And these two groups are interested in different things: the athletes want to win a medal and the IOC wants to make money (with out paying the athletes anything, of course.) Sometimes, it’s in the athletes best interest to not give it their full effort, as in your example of swimming preliminaries. I don’t really see a difference, and, in my opinion, this just makes the IOC look bad.

      They basically set rules up before the tournament, maybe bad rules, but there was a set of rules in place for how to win a medal. And all of these teams played with-in these rules. Now they are being kicked out because it’s against the spirit of the Olympics. As far as I can tell the spiriti fo the Olympics is for the IOC to make as much money as possibly, while paying the athletes as little as possible. The IOC is like the NCAA, except that they affect athletes all over the world. Thank god it’s only ever other year.

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