LONDON (Reuters) - The London Olympics badminton tournament was thrown into chaos on Tuesday after opposing teams in two separate women’s doubles matches both appeared determined to lose their final preliminary group matches, prompting organizers to launch a probe.
Spectators at Wembley Arena jeered China’s world champion doubles pair Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli, and South Korean duo Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na as all four players took turns at missing routine shots to concede points in the match, prompting disquiet from the crowd at Wembley Arena.
A technical delegate told Reuters tournament organizers had formed a review panel to investigate the match and held out the threat of serious sanctions.
Moments after the review was confirmed, the 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 onto the court and appeared to disqualify both pairs of opponents 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 behavior 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 number two pair if both teams reach the final.
“The Chinese started this. They did it first,” an ashen-faced Sung told reporters through an interpreter. “It’s a complicated thing with the draws. They didn’t want to meet each other in the semi-final.”
Sung 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, told Reuters before the second match that there would be a review and held out disqualification from the tournament as a potential maximum punishment.
“We will have a real discussion tonight to see what has happened,” he told Reuters.
”If it’s true what I hear, this is a shame and I don’t like it. And I‘m not going to accept anything that I don’t like at all. It’s not in a good spirit.
”It is (embarrassing) at the Games. I apologize to the public, I apologize for everyone and I am not happy.
“If we have to stay up all night, we will have a serious meeting.”
Fans booed as shuttle-cocks were hit long in both matches with serves dumped into the net.
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 at the situation.
“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.
“I can understand the motives but that they have the guts to actually stand in a crowded hall and put such shame in the game, it’s such a bad image of badminton.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford and Greg Stutchbury