LONDON: Eight badminton players were dramatically disqualified from Olympic competition on Wednesday after a scandal over “throwing” matches left the sport in uproar.
Four pairs in the women's doubles competition – one from China, one from Indonesia and two from South Korea – were barred after being hit by disciplinary charges of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) took action.
A source with knowledge of the proceedings confirmed to AFP that the eight women had been disqualified for trying to deliberately lose matches in the round robin phase to manipulate the knockout draw.
The eight badminton players at the heart of the scandal had been charged 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.”
Angry spectators jeered and booed the players after they appeared to deliberately serve into the net or hit the shuttlecock long or wide.
They were allegedly attempting to manipulate the final standings in the first-round group stage, with two pairs who had already qualified apparently wanting to lose to secure a favourable draw in the next round.
The Group A match between the powerful Chinese top seeds Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli and unseeded South Korean pair Jung Kyung and Kim Ha-Na came under scrutiny by the BWF after the Chinese lost heavily.
The longest rally in the match was just four shots.
Their defeat meant Yu and Wang avoided playing fellow Chinese pair Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, who had finished second in Group D, in the quarter-finals which are due to be played later Wednesday.
Yu said after the match: “We've already qualified, so why would we waste energy? It's not necessary to go out hard again when the knockout rounds are tomorrow.”
After the match, South Korean head coach Sung Han-Kook reportedly said: “It's not the Olympic spirit to play like this. How could the number one pair in the world play like this?”
China's Olympic delegation has launched an investigation into the allegations, state media said.
“The Chinese Olympic Committee... opposes any kind of behaviour to violate the sporting spirit and morality,” Xinhua news agency quoted a Chinese Olympic spokesman as saying.
London Olympics chairman Sebastian Coe described the scandal as “depressing” and “unacceptable” but officials said spectators who had paid to watch the farcical matches would not be refunded.
“It's depressing,” Coe said. “Who wants to sit through something like that? It is unacceptable.”
Elsewhere, 20 golds were to be decided on the busiest day of action so far, and there was joy for hosts Britain as they finally landed their first gold of the Games in rowing.
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning were roared to victory by a huge crowd at the Eton Dorney rowing venue to take gold in the women's pairs.
Britain will hope to add to their haul later when Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins bids to become Britain's most successful Olympian with victory in the time trial race, while Australia's James Magnussen looks for a first swimming gold.
Wiggins starts as favourite for the 44km time trial around London's Hampton Court Palace after winning both long time trials on the Tour.
The first Briton ever to win cycling's most prestigious race said he was determined to win gold after the host nation finished outside the medals in the road race on Saturday.
“Confidence is sky-high that we're going to be in the ballpark,” said the 32-year-old Londoner.
A medal of any colour would see Wiggins become the most decorated British Olympian in history as a seventh medal would put him one clear of rower Steve Redgrave, who has six.
Magnussen came to London with a growing reputation but admitted he got the reality check he needed after Australia's humiliating flop in the 4x100m freestyle relay, and said he was back on track for Wednesday's 100m freestyle.
The 21-year-old world champion nicknamed “The Missile” admitted he was on a steep learning curve at his first Games.
“Everyone says it and I hear it so often, that the Olympics is a different pressure and I used to think 'yeah'... but it's true,” he admitted.