Eight badminton players from top badminton countries China, Indonesia and South Korea were disqualified from London Olympics for throwing matches away in front of an arena full of spectators and millions watching globally. The players deliberately hit their shots into the net or outside the court as audiences across the world wondered if this is what Olympic games are all about.
The players disqualified included China's top-seeded duo Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli, Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, and Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung from South Korea and Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari of Indonesia. IOC President Jacques Rogge agreed with the International Federation's decision and suggested that this was indeed the right way to go.
There are many questions that need answers. Is Badminton as a sport prone to such 'fixes'? The answer is yes. Coaches and players have voiced their concern about such unscrupulous incident in Badminton for long now. It is still shocking that top teams engaged in such conduct on such a large scale at the Olympics. Most concerns have been voiced against Chinese players that they work out who they are most likely to play, depending on the draw and fix matches in order to gain a favorable outcome. In fact, the Indian Badminton team manager Pullela Gopichand, a former All-England Champion had voiced similar concerns in managers' meeting. But he was told that these events were unlikely to unfold.
Next question arises within the context of Olympic games. Was the players' indiscretion all the more condemnable because it happened at the biggest sporting extravaganza on the planet? The answer is yes.
Pierre de Coubertin, who is considered the father of the modern Olympic Games believed that the important thing in life, let alone sports is not to triumph, but to compete. The Olympic motto of "Citius, Altius, Fortius" encapsulates his ideals for each person to compete against his own self in an effort to become better. Seen in this conext, the behaviour falls way short of the ideal that the Olympic motto stands for. The Olympic Charter states in unequivocal terms that 'the Olympic spirit is one which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.' Mutual understanding was on display when the players decided to throw away the matches, but the Olympic Spirit certainly does not allude to this understanding. Fair play was nowhere to be seen.
The Olympics are not just a sporting event. Every athlete, no matter how many world championship medal he/she has, wants an Olympic medal in his/her cabinet. Such is the spirit of firece competition flanked by the higest gamesmanship. One is incomplete without the other. It is not a question of picking a victory over fair play. It is one who practises both in its purest form deserves the accolades. Michael Phelps set a very good example when he lost to Chad de Clos by a hair splitting time difference. At stake was the claim to being the greatest Olympian of all time. But he overcame the obvious disappointment in heartily congratulating De Clos as "the hungry kid" who wanted to win so badly. This is what the Olympic games symbolize. And the Badminton players undermined that spirit, which endears us to these games in the first place. This is why we cheer for the winnder and cry for those who fall short , while applauding those compete at the games. Winning matters, but not over the joy that athletes pushing themselves to the limit brings. One can only hope that in these times when sports is big business, these values attain the exalted status that were the core of the Olympic games once. It is time for athletes to realise that they are not mere sportsperson, they stand for something much bigger, more ideal.