London: Eight Olympic badminton players have been charged with not "trying hard enough" after they appeared deliberately to throw their matches.s
Four pairs of players – two from South Korea, one from China and one from Indonesia – could be disciplined by the Badminton World Federation after the competition temporarily descended into farce.
Organisers launched an investigation after the players in the women’s doubles competition were jeered by spectators as they appeared deliberately to concede points.
Their actions seemed to be an attempt to manipulate the final standings in the group stage of the Olympic competition as they had all already qualified.
The suggestion is that they wanted an easier draw in the knockout stages or were trying to avoid teams from their own nation.
The unedifying spectacle at Wembley Arena saw opposing teams in two separate matches apparently determined to be defeated.
China`s Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli and South Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na are among those facing charges.
The longest rally in their game lasted four shots,and match referee Thorsten Berg coming on to court at one point to warn the players.
The players also appeared deliberately to serve into the net and to hit the shuttlecock out of the court.
A technical delegate said tournament organisers had formed a review panel to investigate – with the threat of serious sanctions including possible disqualification.
Moments after the review was confirmed, another match, between South Korea`s Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jing and Indonesian pair Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari, also descended into farce as the teams played out the same scenario.
A tournament referee came on to the court and appeared to disqualify both pairs in the second match, but the team`s coaches implored to be allowed another chance.
The match was played out with the referee watching intently for any repeat of the behaviour and the South Koreans won 18-21 21-14 21-12.
All teams involved had already qualified for the quarter-finals, though South Korea head coach Sung Han-kook pointed the finger at the Chinese team.
The result of the first match means China`s world champion duo will only meet the country`s No2 pair if both teams reach the final.
Sung said: "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."
He 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 said.
"They [the BWF] should do something about [the format]."
Paisan Rangsikitpho, a technical delegate at the tournament, said officials would immediately hold serious talks about the scandal, which he described as a “shame”.
He said: “It`s not in a good spirit.
"It is [embarrassing] at the Games. I apologise to the public, I apologise for everyone and I am not happy.
China`s Yu claimed she and her partner were just trying to conserve their strength for the knockout rounds.
"Actually these opponents really were strong. This is the first time we`ve played them and tomorrow it`s the knockout rounds, so we`ve already qualified and we wanted to have more energy for the knockout rounds," she told Reuters.
"Really, it`s not necessary to go out hard again when the knockout rounds are tomorrow."
Her South Korean opponents declined to comment.
Other players at the tournament expressed their disdain.
"If it was the case they wanted to purposefully lose, then it`s a big shame ... It`s absolutely stupid and shameful sport, basically," said Germany`s men`s singles player Marc Zwiebler.
A statement from the BWF confirmed that all four pairs would face charges of "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".
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 of China.
She said: "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."
Nedelcheva`s comments are 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.
BDST: 1840 HRS, August 1, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
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