Olympics 2012 – China dominant as badminton goes global.

Posted: August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Black card warning

It was a strange feeling sitting in Wembley Arena last week watching the events unfold both on and off the court. As a self confessed badminton nut it was difficult to deal with the emotions of the week as the game went through the proverbial ringer after the disqualification of four women’s doubles.

A week on and hindsight is a great thing but I really believe the BWF made a grave mistake in disqualifying all four pairs. I was there and I sat right behind court 1, the middle court of three. To my left was court two and to the right of court 1 was court 3.

I was watching the women’s doubles match, along with some colleagues, between Jung Kyung Eun/Kim Ha Na and Wang Xioali/Yu Yang. Without going into detail it was clear to me that the Chinese on court 2 clearly instigated the match throwing fiasco and the stunned Koreans were subconsciously forced to play the game. I firmly believe that the Koreans came on that court to play a competitive match and that the Chinese were there to throw that game or, as they say themselves, to conserve energy for the knockout rounds. The Korean pair, in my opinion, were in the wrong group at the wrong tournament at the wrong time and really had no option than to play along.

We all know about the history of match manipulation in the sport of badminton and what the Chinese tend to forget that this affects the lives of others outside of their regime. Look at the instance at the Indian Open only a few months ago where Kashyap Parupalli made it to the Olympics at the expense of Ajay Jayaram after China’s Chen Jin withdrew under suspicious circumstances. He may have been injured but the suspicion is always there and China have cried wolf just too many times.

The big mistake on this occasion was the failure of the umpire and referee to deal with the situation on court 2 and to allow the Chinese to continue to act in a manner that made a mockery of the Olympic ideal. While most badminton knowledgeable crowds have sat and watched similar circumstances unfold over the past years, the crowd in the Wembley Arena, who paid huge money for their tickets, were not about to be taken for fools. The booing was so loud that the powers that be had to sit up and take notice.

Baun embraces Sato

As we all know the Koreans won the match and the Chinese avoided their team mates in the knockout stages as a result. By the time the Indonesian and second Korean pair came on court many of us had called what would happen next.

The winners of this game between Polii/Jauhari and the Korean third seeds would now have to play the top seeded Chinese who as a result of their match manipulation finished second in their group. Again we have a situation where the failure of the Chinese to play fair directly affected the lives of others as both pairs on court 3 did all they could not to win.

A major factor in this case was the involment of the Korean coach Sung Han Kook in both games. After being involved in the earlier match between his pair and the top seeded Chinese the Korean coach was no longer in a frame of mind to be able to give constructive and impartial direction to his pair Ha Jung Eun and Kim Min Jung.

Again body language told so much and it was clear that the Koreans pair were not comfortable as they attempted to throw the game and in a similar vein the Indonesians were drawn into the fiasco. It was clear that Sung Han Kook gave his Korean pair the instruction to throw the match in a ‘two fingered’ gesture to the Chinese for what went on only an hour before on court 2.

All four pairs ended up being disqualified but I really believed that the subsequent appeal at the time would have been successful for the Koreans and the Indonesians. I really believed that at the time the powers that be needed to suspend all then under appeal only the Chinese would have been sent home and the appeal successful for Indonesia and Korea. How wrong was I!!

As an observer and in hindsight there were many failings en route to the debacle. Apologies have come from all involved but the fact of the matter is that the BWF failed in their control and organisation of the tournament and implemented a group format without testing. Thomas Lund has been very forthright in accepting the failings of the BWF on this occasion and I am sure they will learn from it but come on guys….we have seen the manipulation of group stages before. Has sport learned nothing from the 1982 world cup finals incident between Germany and Austria? I was only 12 at the time and I remember that.

Pole in Pain

It is my opinion to disqualify all four pairs was the wrong decision. Yes the Chinese had to go but the coaches have a lot to answer for from all camps. It is my opinion that the Koreans and Indonesians were victims of the Chinese arrogance. They did it before so what not again. We also need to look at other sports in these games and there has been some alleged, less than fair, goings on both the track and in the veledrome so it is not just badminton this is happening.

In a funny twist of fate it was the Chinese second seeds Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei who went on to win the tournament. It was their loss to Juhl and Perdersen in the group stages that set this sequence of events in motion in the first instance. Also on a positive note the fiasco brought unheralded media attention across the globe and I for one never saw so many journalists interested in badminton all gatherer in one place in my life.

From a personal perspective it was great for me to see and meet up with some many of my badminton friends from all over the world and share the experience of the games with them. I think as a whole many of us agree the ‘lump in the throat’ award of the games went to Tine Baun and Sayaka Sato. Seeing the Japanese shuttler break down hysterically in tears after sustaining a tournament ending injury was heart breaking and to watch Tine Baun come across the net to hug and console her opponent had many grown men in tears. This is what the Olympics are about.

On the opposite end of the emotion scale I witnessed my friend Michal Logosz cry in pain on the ground in his last Olympics. A torn Achilles ended his Olympic dream and it was tough watch and not be able to do anything as he was taken away in a wheelchair.

I was also very impressed by the involvement of the army in these games. Much was made of the security issue on the lead up to London 2012 but what an inspirational desicision it was to bring in the army/air force guys to help out. These guys and girls were amazing and so friendly and helpful. Nothing was ever a problem for them and what a professional job they did.

At times the casino type atmosphere in the Wembley arena got to me and WOW the pink was so overpowering at times. The air conditioning had to be controlled during play so the heat in the hall was intense especially during the evening but as a whole the badminton made up for the very few failings.

Inspirational Irish Support

In the end China proved that no matter what the rest of the world could throw at them that they are still the dominant force in badminton. Not only have they maintained their status as the greatest badminton nation on the planet but they enhanced this reputation by taking an unprecedented 5 gold medals and 8 badminton medals in total. The reality of the situation is that China does not have to get involved in any controversy to win medals. They can do it under any circumstance as they are the best in the world.

Finally and I cannot sign off on my Olympic experience without paying tribute to those Irish fans, family and friends who came across to London to support Scott Evans and Chloe Magee. Getting tickets was as difficult as getting an audience with the Pope but the Irish managed it somehow. Where ever there is an Irish sportsman and women on show the Irish supporters will be there. Even in defeat they cheered and supported as only the Irish can do. Well done guys and girls you were a true inspiration.

  1. Celso Wolf Jr says:

    Very unfair that the BWF unfortunately not punished nor the technicians nor the team managers. We all know that athletes did this because they were ordained by the technicians and team managers. I sent an email about it to BWF.

    • Hi Celso,

      In some ways I agree with what you say and I do feel that certainly 3 of the pairs we treated unfairly. I also agree that the team managers have a lot to answer for and indeed the referee and umpire in the very first match with the Chinese should have indeed been more forceful.

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