The Olympic Badminton competition came into disrepute last week when a number of the doubles teams deliberately played well below their best so as to gain a better ‘pool’ position in later matches so as to maximise their chances to reach the upper echelons toward a Gold Medal play off.
The Badminton fiasco
The Australian newspaper ran a feature article the following day, August 3, 2012, from The Times of London written by Matthew Syed who in the European Table Tennis Championships 20 years ago the British Team faced an unplanned similar situation. To lose to Sweden would have meant playing France in the semi-finals a better prospect than playing Germany.
The upshot was that one of their number lost by skilfully missing the edge of the table ‘fractionally’ and after the match was embraced as a hero. Syed suggested that in this context it was an overreaction of Badminton officials but then went on to discuss issues where money is involved by deliberately losing in betting situations.
The issue of spectator integrity was also a major feature of the Badminton decision as people had come to watch a true Olympic event only to be given a display of deliberate poor performances so as to gain an advantage, Moreover each and every Olympian had sworn the Olympic Athletes Oath at the Opening Ceremony which includes honesty and integrity in their sport.
But the same is not said of the women’s volleyball competition with two pools of 4 teams and each and every of those eight teams are in the quarter finals whereupon a knock out competition is happenstance. The availability of rorting [a term used in Australia to mean a scam or fraud] the process of competition in a more conducive quarter final has not gone unnoticed in the media but officials’ pregnant pause in meaningful responses is something else.
London Bridge decorated with the Olympic symbols
Swimmers too pace themselves in the heats so as to conserve energy for the finals. The Kookaburras at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics played the USA in their final pool match and took the game way to easy and only marginally won 1-0. Many felt they lost their ‘mojo’ and subsequently lost to Pakistan 0-1 in the semi-finals. The professional handicap running race the famous Easter Stawell Gift is all about ‘conning the handicapper’ so as to gain the maximum handicap advantage for the final.
Tanking is a recent term in AFL [Australian Football League] where teams at the lower end of the points table near the end of the season have played poorly so as to get the optional position for drafting new players for the following year. The AFL draft is a system whereby the lower teams of the current competition get the first selections of players for the following year.
There is Biblical and military history associated with feigns. Joshua found that the Israelites lost of the first battle of Ai due to the sin of Achan and then devised a military plan to feign a frontal attack with the main body hidden behind the city. It worked like a charm. General Allenby in WWI in Palestine employed this same tactic straight out of the Scriptures.
So too in modern military history where campaigns are littered with such feigns to draw the enemies attention while engaging in a ‘Joshua like’ attack that proved decisive and as they say, the victors write the history.
The question therefore is a valid one – when is losing winning and when is losing winning?
Strategy or Deceit?
Is clever planning and execution of that plan so as to maximise the opportunity to compete for Gold a hanging offence? Or is this part of the game at this level of competition? Perhaps it’s not a case of “everyone is doing it” as it might be – which team has the smarter computerised programmer to work out which is the better strategy to reach the stated goal.
There are certainly margins of consideration in all of this stratagem. Clearly a cricketer bowling a no-ball at specific points in a match or batsmen getting out cheaply so as to gain momentarily through a betting racquet is a form of match fixing.
The question that is being asked, is at what point does strategy cross over to illegal or corrupt behavior?
Psalm 17, verse 1, “Hear a just cause, O Lord, Attend to my cry; Give ear to my prayer that is not from deceitful lips.”