These summer Olympics had one of the grandest opening ceremonies in recent times, but scandals may soon overshadow the games. Eight women’s badminton players were disqualified for intentionally trying to lose their matches.
Due to the format of the group stage, the four teams, which had already qualified, were trying to lose their matches in an effort to play an easier opponent in the quarterfinals.
Officials placed the blame on the teams for not keeping up with the competitive Olympic spirit, but the real blame should be placed on the tournament organizers. This was the first time that a complete knockout round was not utilized from the first match.
While it is easy to agree that losing games on purpose is not good sportsmanship, disqualifying the teams is too severe of a punishment. This is a practice that happens all the time. The only difference is that it is much easier to notice it in the sport of badminton than in other sports.
The Indianapolis Colts used a similar tactic in the 2009-2010 season. The team was a perfect 14-0 going into week 16. Having already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, head coach Jim Caldwell benched starting quarterback Peyton Manning as the team had the lead. The Colts went on to lose that game as fans booed them.
Professional athletes play to win, not necessarily to entertain the fans. If a team can get an advantage by doing something unethical, it’s naive for people to assume that the athletes will take the high road.
Some argue that the fans were not able to see the best athletes compete to their full potential. This is true, but it was only for one match. The players would have given their all in the next round once eliminations started. It was only a temporary problem, but disqualification made it a permanent one.
The real losers in this are not just the players but everyone involved in the sport of badminton. It is one of the sports that does not have a large following in the United States, and this fiasco will probably limit its growth even more.
In the end, no one benefited from this match fixing. The players do not get to compete for medals, the fans do not get to watch quality badminton, the organizers are criticized for introducing group stages, and the entire sport suffered as a whole.
Hopefully everyone can learn from this and realize that playing to win is part of the game, even if losing can lead to winning.
Roberto Salome is an alumnus with a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.