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It is definitely a gloomy Olympic Games for Indonesia’s national squad. Not only due to the fact that we lost the chance to keep the gold medal tradition alive, but shuttlers Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari were disqualified — along with six other women’s doubles players — for trying throw their final preliminary round matches to secure a more favorable draw in the knockout rounds.
It was a disgrace for Indonesia, which had high hopes of winning gold in badminton. To make things worse, Indonesia had to return home without a gold medal this year after the country’s best hopes of badminton men’s doubles Bona Septano and Muhamad Ahsan, and mixed doubles pair of Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir, lost their matches.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF), which applied the new grouping system in London, investigated the doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia, finding them guilty of “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” in matches on late Tuesday.
The fiasco has prompted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to demand that national Olympic committees from the three countries investigate the coaches to determine whether they, or officials from the committees, should also receive punishment.
Chinese badminton coach Li Yongbo immediately apologized and accepted blame for the scandal, as reported by Xinhua.
“As the head coach, I owe the fans and the Chinese an apology,” he said. “Chinese players failed to demonstrate the fighting spirit of the national team. It’s me to blame.”
Indonesia, on the other hand, demanded the BWF review the grouping system.
Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng said, as quoted by Antara, that Indonesia always respects the Olympic spirit and sportsmanship. “We respect the decision made by the BWF [on the disqualification] but we want the competition system to be reviewed.”
As the debate on the new tournament format started to heat up, BWF deputy president Paisan Rangsikitpho said that the format of round-robin matches needed a review.
“Now we’ve obtained all the tapes. Right now we don’t have so much time, but after the tournament is finished we will look to review everything, the whole situation,” he said.
Although the review may not change the result, he added, it would help the BWF to decide whether to persist with the controversial group format in the first round.
A thorough investigation is surely needed, as it will decide the future of badminton for the next Olympics.
Although the IOC has guaranteed that badminton will still be featured in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the scandal has already tainted the sport, and the BWF needs to work hard to restore their image.
The unsportsmanlike conduct has deeply hurt the IOC mission to promote the Olympics throughout the world, as mentioned in Chapter 1 Article 2 of the Olympic Charter. The mission includes upholding ethics in sports, encouraging participation in sports, ensuring the Olympic Games take place on a regular schedule, protecting the Olympic Movement, and encouraging and supporting the development of sport.
Whoever gave the order to our shuttlers to lose their matches should be held responsible. The sports minister should take this issue seriously. This scandal only showed how immature and unprepared our athletes are.
Indonesia’s badminton legend, Christian Hadinata, is known as someone who does not believe in this so-called team strategy. The doubles specialist once said that athletes should be prepared to face their rivals in the arena and, for him, this only means a victory.
Christian believes that if athletes are ordered to lose deliberately, it will be a big blow for them psychologically. What serves as a team strategy could backfire if the athletes cannot recover from the defeat.
Regretfully, Christian’s stance is not upheld by his protégés. The unacceptable action of the eight shuttlers did not only mean embarrassment for themselves, but also for their countries, and, above all, for the Olympics movement.
This fiasco should serve as a valuable lesson for all Olympians. Winning is important, but the path to victory should be a fair one. As Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin said: “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”