The match-throwing scandal involving two Chinese badminton champions and six other players in the Olympics has shocked China and the world alike. Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang were disqualified along with the others after they tried to lose in the round-robin stage to secure more favourable opponents in the knockout rounds. What they did is no doubt in breach of the Games spirit, and they were rightly excluded from the Olympics.
That said, the strong condemnation in and outside China appears to have been blown out of proportion. A report under the headline 'Disgrace!' by the state news agency Xinhua speaks volumes about the disappointment of those who had pinned their hopes on the pair to boost China's gold medal tally. Some mainland media went further, dubbing it the gloomiest day in Chinese Olympics history and ridiculing their blatant acts. An internet user in London claimed that the scandal had made him ashamed to be Chinese.
Undeniably, contestants who do not apply their best effort to win a match are committing a serious breach of faith. The pair appeared to serve into the net deliberately or hit the shuttlecock long and wide. It was so blatant and unprofessional that even spectators jeered. Amid torrents of attacks, Yu announced that she would quit badminton. That a promising world champion has to bow out at the age of 26 amid a scandal is regrettable. The punishment cannot be harsher.
No one wants to be victimised by rules that put them at a disadvantage. If winning a match in the initial stage is indeed unfavourable, it is only natural one would try to avoid it. Linking a country's performance to national pride and prowess also puts pressure on athletes and coaches. The Chinese badminton duo tried to lose in order to win. For such a foolish act, they paid the price. Their coaches and the sporting regime should accept a bigger share of the blame. Athletes are trained to play to the fullest to win. They would not have cheated unless they were told, or under pressure, to do so.