LONDON Reflecting on the decision of four badminton teams to throw their games here in order to get a better playoff draw, the face of London 2012 spent Wednesday wagging his finger.
“Depressing. Who wants to sit through something like that?” LOCOG chief Sebastian Coe moaned. “It is unacceptable.” It’s an unseemly thing for him to say.
Coe long ago retired from athletics, and instead switched over to a job in sales. It’s no longer within his competence to judge what is or isn’t ethically acceptable behaviour for people who still need to win in order to pay their rent.
Hours later, the discipline’s governing body cravenly capitulated to public opinion (most of that public presumably having never watched a game of badminton before in their lives).
Four teams, including the defending world champions, were tossed from the badminton competition for the sin of playing the long game instead of the short one.
What’s not at issue here is that games were thrown.
The four pairs — two from South Korea, and one each from China and Indonesia — embarked on an amusing journey into true amateurism Tuesday night.
Over and over, they smashed the shuttlecock into the net. They put easy shots well wide. No rally lasted more than four returns.
How would you look competing in the Olympics? Now you know.
All four pairs were trying to ease their draw going into the knockout round, where lesser teams play each other before they meet the powerhouses. The Chinese, who have used this strategy for years on the world badminton stage, wanted to ensure their entrants could not meet before the gold-medal match.
They’re out now. Four inferior teams, including a Canadian pair, were pushed forward as replacement cannon fodder. Problem not quite solved.
That’s the silver lining to this thing — playing another surprise entrant, Australia, Canadians Alex Bruce and Michele Li advanced to Thursday’s semis. They’re one win from a medal. You’re happy for them, but just because it broke right for us doesn’t make it fair.
If anyone’s to blame, it is organizers who decided to make this competition a round robin instead of a straight elimination. You want maximum effort? You make every match count. Otherwise, you introduce gamesmanship into the mix.
The ticket-buying public was upset. Vocally so inside