Anger As Badminton Stars Play To Lose
In farcical scenes at Wembley Arena on Tuesday night, a pair from China, two from South Korea and another from Indonesia appeared to be deliberately trying to lose.
Spectators booed as the female players served into the net, hit shots long or wide, and employed time-wasting tactics as they appeared to try to engineer themselves a favourable draw in the next round of the competition.
All four pairs had already qualified for the last eight but top spots were still to be settled.
Spectators reacted angrily to players' refusal to play. One wrote on Twitter: "Didn't expect to be booing teams tonight. China and Korea women's doubles teams are a disgrace."
Several hours after the events on court, the Badminton World Federation charged the four pairs with "not using one's best efforts to win a match"and "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport".
A disciplinary hearing is scheduled to be held later this morning. The pairs are currently all included in the order of play and are due to contest their quarter-finals this evening.
The fiasco began when Chinese top seeds Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang started to show little interest in beating Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na to finish top of Group A.
This would mean avoiding compatriots and second seeds Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei at least until the final.
The Koreans responded by copying China and referee Thorsten Berg emerged to warn all the players. The match restarted and the Koreans went on to win 21-14 21-11.
But that was not the end of the matter as a second Korean pair, the third seeds Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung, then attempted to throw their match against Indonesia's Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii.
Their motive was apparently an attempt to avoid Wang and Yu in the quarter-finals, an outcome they failed to achieve as they eventually won 18-21 21-14 21-12. The Indonesians in turn had also tried to lose the game.
Berg intervened and disqualified the players in the second game, prompting a roar of approval from the angry crowd, but quickly reversed his decision.
Britain's Gail Emms, who was an Olympic silver medallist in 2004, said the scenes were a "disgrace".
"We had four pairs on court trying to lose - very un-Olympic spirit," she said. "I'm furious. It is very embarrassing for our sport."
However, China's Yu claimed the tactics had simply been to preserve energy ahead of the knockout phase on Wednesday.
"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 said."