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August 1, 2012 2:12 AM   Subscribe

The Olympics are never without controversy and 2012 is no different. South Korea's Shin A Lam was held in the throes of perhaps the longest second ever of épée sudden death, as the clock was improperly reset with one full second remaining allowing her opponent to register a hit and knock her out of gold medal contention. Now the Badminton World Federation has accused four pairs of Olympic doubles players with "not using one's best efforts to win a match": essentially throwing their games to secure a better draw.

China's Yu Yang said the Chinese decided to preserve energy ahead of the knockout stages: "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."

That may not be enough as China's Olypmic sports delegation has begun an investigation after match referee Thorsten Berg came on court to warn the players, who appeared to make deliberate errors and later disqualified them, though that disqualification was rescinded.
posted by disillusioned (156 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ok one second can be a long time in fencing - but if you want to make completely sure you win win hit your opponent more times than they hit you within the allotted time. Fencing is a sport reliant on humans to judge and people can make mistakes.
posted by gomichild at 2:39 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


... one second can be a long time in fencing...
posted by Ritchie at 2:44 AM on August 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I still haven't read or heard a really basic explanation of what went wrong (or if anything did go wrong) in the fencing. From Ritchie's link it seems like the referee said go but the clock didn't start?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:03 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clearly they should change the way the Badminton selection process / draw works. Putting all the blame on the competitors is a hiding to nothing, they'll just work on getting more subtle at throwing games in future. If the situation is that players are advantaged by losing, that's a problem.
posted by iotic at 3:06 AM on August 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


Ad-laden video of the alleged game-throwing/deliberate errors.
posted by disillusioned at 3:10 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Related, but sillier was the Barbados-Grenada 1994 Caribbean Cup game that used a strange variant of Golden Goal to provide double points for goals scored in extra time, incentivizing Barbados to score an own goal in order to force extra time so that they could then go on to win by two. (Grenada scored a late goal to make the score 2-1, which kept Barbados under the 2 goal margin they needed to advance.)

Watching the video I just linked to, it appears pretty obvious that this goes beyond simple energy conservation. They're literally just tossing it into the net and dropping the shuttlecock.

Thorsten comes out and says "we are here to play and to compete...okay? If you don't play, both teams can be disqualified. Both teams can be disqualified and go out of the games, okay?" He then pantomimes how to properly serve. Wow.
posted by disillusioned at 3:19 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll have to track down the whole Shin A Lam match, but honestly for epee you could have a blind referee and it would work 99% of the time. The issue here is that if the clock had been started correctly, time would have run out and Shin would have won. But the clock didn't start, and the other fencer scored a point. What gets me is that when they went to the video replay they didn't change their call and to me it's pretty clear they should have.

If you watch any of the foil/saber matches the fencers are very very quick to call for the video review and occasionally the calls get reversed.
posted by Farce_First at 3:59 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was just reading about the badminton controversy. What's not entirely clear is whether there are any actual consequences for what they did. I mean, what does it matter if they're 'disciplined' if they're still allowed to remain in the games and possibly medal?

I didn't read any of the other Olympic threads so I don't know if it's been discussed but what's the deal with attendance? I just saw part of a press conference in which an official said that seating was at 85% capacity yesterday. Are people not interested? More screw-ups? Does anyone care? After all the hype and predictions of crowding - and transport apocalypse - things here (I live in Victoria) actually seem quieter than usual.
posted by Partario at 4:01 AM on August 1, 2012


disillusioned: "They're literally just tossing it into the net and dropping the shuttlecock."
There were apparently also instances in the match Jauhari/Polii (INA) vs Ha/Kim (KOR) where players were racing to return shots that were clearly out of bounds, since neither team wanted to win and meet the reigning champions in the knock-out games. All of this mess could of course have been avoided if the Danish double Pedersen/Rytter Juhl hadn't upset the Chinese favourites to advance to the quarter finals. Go Denmark! :)

A rather obvious solution to these kinds of problems would be to use a straight up knock-out tournament scheme like in e.g. table tennis.

As for the fencing, it seems ridiculous to discuss fractions of seconds when the timing is based on the director starting the fencing with a hand/audio signal, the time taker then physically starting the clock and physically stopping it again (as I understand is the case). If you want to have fractions properly counted, have the director give a light signal that also starts the clock.
posted by brokkr at 4:04 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


what's the deal with attendance?

It's... complicated.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:26 AM on August 1, 2012


Let the Badminton folks go free !!

If the governing body of the sport changes the tournament format to a set-up where it is now better for individual players to lose matches, then what do they expect is going to happen. Of course players are going to game the system to gain an advantage.

If they want to solve this problem, then Badminton needs to go back to the original tournament format.
posted by Flood at 4:28 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The timer in fencing is started manually, but stops automatically. The two big problems were that the timer only displays whole seconds, and that the clock was reset to a whole second after two actions (those two actions took less than one second total, as did the third one, which came after the clock reset). The referee should also have enforced a wider distance between the fencers before the start.

All in all an embarrassing situation for fencing. The governing body has already apologized to Shin and indicated an intent to move towards timers with fractions of seconds.
posted by aturoff at 4:31 AM on August 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Love the Guardian liveblog:
Olympic organisers will not be offering refunds to fans who attended yesterday's controversial "thrown" badminton games, the Associated Press reports. Paul Deighton of Locog said people there also had tickets for another game in the session. "You get into all sorts of strange precedents if you give refunds to people who aren't happy with what they see," Deighton said. "You get into grey, very dangerous territory."

Sounds frightening.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:31 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lego reproduction of the fencing controversy
posted by hariya at 4:39 AM on August 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


Empty seats - the price we pay for the corporate pact
posted by jontyjago at 4:40 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Putting on my conspiracy-theorist hat for a moment, it's possible that the game-throwing may have been suggested by the national committee - in the Chinese case, ensuring that the Chinese teams don't meet until the final guarantees that they get gold and silver, whereas if they meet in the semis then they can't get better than gold and bronze and could conceivably end up just with silver.

I hope they don't go to a straight knockout tournament - having a pool stage rewards consistently good play rather than being lucky once. It does seem to be the only obvious way to stop this from happening again, though. Completely farcical situation.
posted by ZsigE at 4:44 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Its the doubts over the young Chinese swimmer that bothered me particularly. Even if she was cleared, those articles remain online.
posted by infini at 4:58 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the doubts are always there, and have been since Ben Johnson, and arguably before. What's also out there in perpetuity is the extraordinary outburst of sour grapes from the US team director, and I'm rather glad about it.
posted by cromagnon at 5:05 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The eight badminton players have now been booted from the Olympics.
posted by mr.marx at 5:11 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm glad to see the Fencing story back on the front page after its earlier deletion. I work with a couple of people with an interest in fencing (one actually has judged fencing at world levels) and they made it into a very interesting story.
posted by jepler at 5:11 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


It does seem to be the only obvious way to stop this from happening again, though.

One thing that helps is that you have small pools, and vastly more important, the final pool games are played *at the same time* -- so that you don't know the results of the other matches.

Another is to actually DQ the teams doing so, which means some other team will get to the knockout rounds.

Finally, make sure that you shuffle seeds.

Here's the problem. This is the actual knockout bracket for the Men's soccer tournament this Olympics. There's nobody in there, because we haven't finished the group, but we know that A1 -- that is, the winner of Group A, will play B2, the 2nd place finisher in group B, and so forth

Let's say that Great Britain (in Group A) and Brazil (in Group C) wanted to make sure that they didn't meet until the finals. If both win their groups (and win the QF matches), they known that they'll meet in the semis.

(Note: In no way am I accusing either the Great British or Brazilian sides of doing this. Indeed, both are currently on top of their groups. This is merely an example of what the badminton teams were trying to accomplish.)

But if one of them chooses to lose the last game to drop them to 2nd place, they'll move in the bracket. If GB did and was team A2, instead of facing B2 in the QF and the winner of C1/D2 in the SF, they'd face the winner of B1 in the QF and the winner of D1/C2 in the Semi. They wouldn't meet the winner of group C until the final -- and if that winner was Brazil, they wouldn't meet until the final. Achievement unlocked!

To me, it's an easy fix. Instead of having, say, the winners of group A play #2 of Group B, if you have four winners (ABCD) and four 2nd place (abcd), randomly draw ABCD into the quarterfinals, then randomly draw abcd as opponents (which means you could have Aa, Ab, Ac or Ad as the first QF match.) The reason they were able to play this game is they knew that if they won, they'd be set into one place in the QF tree, for the group winner of that group, if they lost, they be the group second in a different part. If having group members play each other in the QF is offensive, then redraw that pull.

Not knowing where you will be placed in the tree makes trying to manipulate it much harder -- theoretically, you could both lose at the same time to keep from meeting in the quarters, but the draw might have you meeting in the semifinal -- and in my example above, GB and Brazil wouldn't know where they would be, so trying to change the seeding by intentionally losing doesn't work -- you may well end up meeting in QF by intentionally losing, which means the loser of that match gets nothing.
posted by eriko at 5:18 AM on August 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wonder if it would have been possible for the person who "beat" Shin to have somehow withdrawn or some such so Shin advanced. To me, she woulda been the star of the games.
posted by ambient2 at 5:20 AM on August 1, 2012


My spouse's response: "The headline should be 'WORSEMINTON'."

We have discovered a joke so bad I won't steal it.
posted by Etrigan at 5:24 AM on August 1, 2012 [56 favorites]


[source]
posted by mr.marx at 5:30 AM on August 1, 2012


My spouse's response: "The headline should be 'WORSEMINTON'."

Wouldn't surprise me if a tabloid used that headline, or something like "It's gone from BAD(minton) to WORSE".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:35 AM on August 1, 2012


My spouse's response: "The headline should be 'WORSEMINTON'."

Yeah, I dunno, maybe there is a goodminton...
posted by adamdschneider at 5:43 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


There were several issues with the epee bout.

1. The referee allowed them to start too close together. Rules dictate that the starting position must be far enough apart that the blades can not touch when held in the point-in-line position, which is arm straight out. It's not an obscure rule. Had the referee just done that the German fencer would not have been able to close distance quickly enough to stop the clock before the time expired.

2. There is a technical issue in that the clock essentially resets to the nearest full second on every stop.

3. The rules also dictate that the referee is responsible for correcting the time should it be in error. The referee failed to do that.
posted by COD at 5:49 AM on August 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is a technical issue in that the clock essentially resets to the nearest full second on every stop.

More precisely, it rounds up. If it reset to the nearest full second, it would have reset to 0.

But yes, the referee screwed up twice -- failed to set the fencers correctly, failed to correct the clock. Why the appeal wasn't upheld is the real questions. Refs make mistakes, the point of the appeal process is to fix them, not say "Well, yeah, the ref was wrong, you lose anyway."
posted by eriko at 5:57 AM on August 1, 2012 [12 favorites]


eriko: "If having group members play each other in the QF is offensive, then redraw that pull. "
Yeah, therein lies the problem. For a tournament with group stage followed by knockout games (such as commonly used in football) you generally want both that teams from the same group can't meet again until the final and that the draws are public. Imagine resetting the draw after drawing most of the teams where e.g. two favourites had drawn eachother, then in the second draw you pull walkovers out of the pot for them. You'd end up with fans being resentful either which way due to a good/bad draw being nullified.

As far as I know playing to lose hasn't been that big an issue in football for 30 years after the competition format was changed to play the final group matches concurrently.

I must admit I haven't read up on exactly how the badminton system works, but this problem was highlighted ahead of the Olympics by e.g. the Danish badminton association, as reported in Danish media.
posted by brokkr at 5:58 AM on August 1, 2012


Badminton players officially disqualified. Interesting quotes about the intentional losing being expected by managers:
The incidents prompted Gail Emms, the former British badminton star, to tell the BBC: "You cannot do this in an Olympic Games, this is something that is not acceptable … it was just disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful."

Emms said that the potential for spot-fixing was raised in a manager's meeting on Monday but that the referee had dismissed their concerns.

"All the managers got together with the referee and said, 'look, this has happened; in Group D you will find some very dodgy matches going on in the evening because of it' and the referee laughed and said 'oh don't be silly'," she said. "And the managers said 'we know the game, we know the players and we know the teams and we know this is going to happen."

She added: "Badminton, in the Olympics and in all tournaments across the circuit, it's never played in a group stage, it's always a straight knockout system and for some reason they decided that the Olympic Games in 2012 should be this group stages.

"And as soon as I heard that I went 'it's going to bring up match fixing', that was my first thought, and lo and behold last night that is exactly what happened."
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:59 AM on August 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


And from the Guardian liveblog:
My colleague Peter Walker has more insight on this. "I've just had a fascinating chat with a BWF staff member," he discloses. "I can't name him, but he's well informed. He said the issue of potential non-trying was raised at the pre-tournament meeting of national team managers but dismissed. Many people assumed this would happen with a group system, in place for the first time this Olympics. The Chinese badminton team, he added, were known to closely follow instructions from coaches on how to best 'massage' a draw. 'Lots of people knew this would happen,' he said. 'In a way it's probably best for the sport. I imagine the IOC ordered tough action, as I can't imagine the BWF doing this alone.'"
So you have to wonder why they switched from the standard knock-out format?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:02 AM on August 1, 2012


Here's a new system for you to work in! Please be respectful and do not game it for your advantage in the strategic persuit of winning. Oh wait...
posted by Theta States at 6:06 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


eriko: "To me, it's an easy fix. Instead of having, say, the winners of group A play #2 of Group B, if you have four winners (ABCD) and four 2nd place (abcd), randomly draw ABCD into the quarterfinals, then randomly draw abcd as opponents (which means you could have Aa, Ab, Ac or Ad as the first QF match.)"
Another problem with this - for football, not so much for badminton - is that matches are played in different venues. Remember the recent Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine? Imagine if you didn't know whether your team were to play their knockout matches in Warsaw or Donetsk. That would suck for both players and fans.
posted by brokkr at 6:10 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find this somehow . . . disconcerting.
posted by spitbull at 6:14 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


So you have to wonder why they switched from the standard knock-out format?


If you like conspiracy theories, it's because the IOC set up a trap - they want a solid precedent to go after other forms of bad sportsmanship, or to keep the Chinese off the podium, or both. Take your pick of tin-foil beanies.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:14 AM on August 1, 2012


There are going to be a LOT of theories, some crackpot and some not, about bad sportsmanship being inherent in the Chinese system of producing athletes. But lest we think otherwise, there are voices in China aware of the problem and interested in doing things properly.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:24 AM on August 1, 2012


Does this mean there's a new definition for "pull a Britta"?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:24 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something needs to be done about these racket sports.
posted by waterunderground at 6:25 AM on August 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


Watching women's soccer last night, it appeared (and was repeatedly mentioned by the commentators) that Japan was "conserving energy" and hardly playing against South Africa.
posted by papercake at 6:26 AM on August 1, 2012


Tournaments with group stages also don't typically have 2 different teams from the same country competing. That's important to note.
posted by cotterpin at 6:27 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait... I don't get it (I guess I don't understand good sportsmanship?).

If the aim is to win a tournament and ultimately a gold medal, why is tactically not winning a preliminary round (which would be to your disadvantage if you did) wrong?
posted by panaceanot at 6:27 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, is "Go out there and try your best to win the match so you and your country's teams have less chance of winning medals" the correct way to compete?
posted by panaceanot at 6:30 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


> If the aim is to win a tournament and ultimately a gold medal, why is tactically not winning a preliminary round (which would be to your disadvantage if you did) wrong?

Well, I suppose it's perfectly fine if winning was all that matters, but they want the dancing monkeys to put on a good show for the crowds. I'd be kind of pissed if I dragged my ass across London to watch some people lazily toss a match.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:30 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but you'd have something to talk about at work the next day!
posted by panaceanot at 6:33 AM on August 1, 2012


If the aim is to win a tournament and ultimately a gold medal, why is tactically not winning a preliminary round (which would be to your disadvantage if you did) wrong?

Why bother playing the match if neither of you are trying to win? I understand the angle that players will do whatever they can to give themselves the best advantage, but we're here to see who is the best at badminton, not to see who is best at losing without looking like you're doing it on purpose.

That said the blame should be on the organisers for setting up a format where this can happen.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:34 AM on August 1, 2012


Another problem with this - for football, not so much for badminton - is that matches are played in different venues.

Huh?

Let's look at the Men's Olympic knockout stage. If Great Britain wins group A, they'll play in Match 28, 4-Aug-2012 @ 1930, in Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. If they come in 2nd, they'll play in Match 26, 4-Aug-2012 @ 14:30, in Wembley Stadium in London.

Until the group stages are over, you *will not know* where you are going to play -- neither the team nor the fans do, unless you are so dominant that your position is set before the last game is played (and in a 4 team group, that's hard to do -- not one group in this tourney has a team fully set, though some teams will advance, they might be 1st or 2nd)

Unless the tournament is in one stadium, this problem is exactly the same if you seed the teems directly into the knockout stage or you redraw them for the knockout stage. Neither the players nor the teams will know which stadium they'll play the QF in until the end of the group stage, and once the draw happens, they will know what stadiums they can potentially play in.

Really, the difference boils down to this -- the amount of time you have knowing where you will be playing the knockout matches will be reduced by the time it takes to redraw -- call it an hour, but really, it should take 5 minutes.

In GB's case, if they win Group A and win out, they play in Cardiff, then Old Trafford in Manchester for the semifinal , then Wembley for the final.

If they come in 2nd, they'll play in Wembley, and they (amusingly enough in this tourney) would play in Wembley the whole way. Indeed, one could cite that as incentive for them to come in 2nd in the group stage, so they would have, for all intent, home field advantage throughout the knockout stages, but of course Old Trafford and Wembley are going to figure prominently in any international tourney held in the UK.
posted by eriko at 6:35 AM on August 1, 2012


I mean, is "Go out there and try your best to win the match so you and your country's teams have less chance of winning medals" the correct way to compete?

This. Wearing themselves out for no reason would give them a disadvantage in matches that actually matter.

If there's any actual "fixing" going on here (and there almost certainly is), it's the organizers doing it, not the teams.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:37 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And "playing your best" is always more about playing smart than playing hard. Seriously, fuck everything about how this badminton shit.)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:39 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Imagine resetting the draw after drawing most of the teams where e.g. two favourites had drawn eachother, then in the second draw you pull walkovers out of the pot for them

That's implicitly what we're doing now -- you put the winners of the groups against the 2nd place teams. The two favorites don't cross, since they've almost certainly been seeded into different groups, and if they've held their favorite status and won their groups, they will not meet in the QF -- remember, the proposed draw is to pull the four group winners into the 4 QF matches, then draw the opponents from the four group seconds. Each group winner will play a (randomly selected) group second.

You can get (50% chance) the two most favored teams in the semifinal, which you can try to prevent by seeding the knockout rounds, but to me, so what? If that really bothers you, you should seed the group winners by points (and standard tiebreakers), so that the first QF match goes to the winner of the four groups, and the third to the 2nd place of the four, and they can't meet until the finals.

Indeed, this is exactly what most tourneys do in the initial seeds (mod putting the host country, if applicable, into group A.)

If that means the pre-tourney favorites meet in the semis, it means one of them isn't doing as well as expected, and *shouldn't* be considered a favorite anymore, given that you've played a number of games already.

And, there is at least one major tourney that does exactly this -- redraws after the group stages -- that being the UEFA Champions league. Part of the reason is that several teams advance directly to the knockout rounds, but it also serves to prevent bracket fixing.
posted by eriko at 6:46 AM on August 1, 2012


"What is truly depressing is that while undetected drug cheats will continue on here, a group of competitors playing by the well-established rules of their small world have been robbed of glory by people who didn’t know who they were before yesterday, and will forget who they are in a few days time." - The Toronto Star
posted by dry white toast at 6:47 AM on August 1, 2012


"What is truly depressing is that while undetected drug cheats will continue on here, a group of competitors playing by the well-established rules of their small world have been robbed of glory by people who didn’t know who they were before yesterday, and will forget who they are in a few days time." - The Toronto Star

Except that these were new rules, and the people who threw them out was the badminton governing body, not the Olympics.
posted by Etrigan at 6:52 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


eriko: "Let's look at the Men's Olympic knockout stage. If Great Britain wins group A, they'll play in Match 28, 4-Aug-2012 @ 1930, in Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. If they come in 2nd, they'll play in Match 26, 4-Aug-2012 @ 14:30, in Wembley Stadium in London."
Yes. But they won't play in Manchester or Newcastle, which would be an option with your suggestion. You're basically adding a whole lot of logistical complexity, not least for the fans who want to follow their team. It's hard enough as it is.

At Euro 2012, teams didn't know exactly which stadium they'd be playing at should they advance, but at least they knew ahead of time the two options. Under your suggested scheme, I don't see how you can have that property. Remember that the distance between the two farthest stadiums were over 1800 km and many spectators were traveling by car.
eriko: "And, there is at least one major tourney that does exactly this -- redraws after the group stages -- that being the UEFA Champions league."
For the CL draw teams have quite a lot of time to prepare for the away game, including time for fans to buy tickets and so on. This does not apply at a tournament.
posted by brokkr at 7:12 AM on August 1, 2012


Apparently the people responsible for the fencing competition have now realized they fucked up, because they've offered Shin a special medal.
posted by brokkr at 7:18 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry folks, that was a nice controversy, but the world has moved on.
posted by dry white toast at 7:19 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I dunno, maybe there is a goodminton...

"And it goes 'betterminton,' 'greatminton,' and 'exquisiteminton.'"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vavzHB_9c18
posted by incessant at 7:19 AM on August 1, 2012


Let me just come in to say that the fact that it is impossible to find an actual video replay of this, in this day and age, is unbelievable, and ridiculous.
posted by eas98 at 7:26 AM on August 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Let's not forget Chippy Minton.
posted by biffa at 7:34 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always been a fan of double-elimination, because it can become a death march by the time it gets to Round 12 or 18, but I'm evil like that.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:38 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


In reality, though, a double-elimination format where matches are redrawn prior to each round would eliminate knowing who you could potentially face, meaning it would be very difficult to game. If you're impatient you could fiddle with the power-matching to make it go faster.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:39 AM on August 1, 2012


But they won't play in Manchester or Newcastle, which would be an option with your suggestion.

So? They have to be ready to travel to Wales or London as is. You still need bus/train/plane support to move the team to a destination you do not not. You can't buy tickets until you know what stadium they will be in -- or if they'll be at one at all. Having Manchester and Newcastle as possibilities along with Cardiff and London doesn't change the actual mechanics at all -- it just means you have a couple of more *possible* destinations, and you will find out which one you are heading to in the exact same timeframe as you do currently.

If stadium selection was anywhere near as critical as you make it out to be, they would play the QFs within the group *in the same stadium* as well as fix the brackets so that every team would know exactly what stadiums they would be playing in the entire tournament.

They don't. They will happily change what stadium you play in based on performance, and changing that selection from two stadia to four make no practical difference in how you handle the situation. You do it exactly like you do things now -- you sell your allocation of tickets and you move the team to the stadium that you end up playing at next.

You may think it's a logistical increase, but it's not -- no team books every possibility weeks in advance. If you're on charters, you just fly the plane elsewhere. If you're on commercial, you've negotiated a deal with the airline who makes the needed seats and cargo available.

Teams are assigned blocks of tickets to sell, and they sell them once they know where they're going, or they sell them with the "If we play" provisions that they us in US sports to handle the knockout series in MLB/NHL/NBA, where you don't even know how many games you will be playing.

We already have all those problem, and we've already solved all those problems.. Randomly setting the knockout round doesn't change this at all.

Indeed, the Grauniad has this to offer.
Badminton/Bridge meeting of minds:

"In answer to your question about badminton, a similar situation arose in bridge. The world championships feature say 40 teams, which are divided into two pools which play round robins, after which the top four go through to the quarter-finals," writes JJ Cox. "They used then to pair the winner of pool A with the fourth in pool B, second with third and so forth, thus in theory rewarding a good pool performance with an easier draw. However, this led to the situation where if the team which the world thought was the strongest was having a poor round robin and was guaranteed to be in fourth with a match to go, teams sure of qualification in the other pool would try and throw their last match so as not to come first."

"I believe there was actually some kind of disciplinary hearing at which the administrators took the sensible view that you can’t ask players to act against their own ultimate interests, and held that there was nothing wrong with throwing matches in these circumstances (even if, as it sometimes did, this damaged other teams who failed to qualify because of the points gifted to the winner of the thrown match). Of course this was not terribly satisfactory, so they changed the system so that the winner of pool A now gets to choose which of the teams in places two to four in the other group they’re going to play, and so on."
So, instead of randomly seeding, they let the pool winners *pick* the rest of the brackets.

Heh. I like it.
posted by eriko at 8:17 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's also the case of Jordan Wieber, who failed to make the finals despite finishing fourth in the preliminaries because she finished third among country mates. 21 lesser gymnasts advanced and she did not.

I've felt for years that regulations and rules attempting to make sports more marketable are ruining pure athletics. The badminton players threw their game because a silly new format allowed that to be the most strategic move. The fencing officials were blatantly wrong, but the appeal process is biased towards the regulator (i.e., anyone who watched the video knew it was wrong, yet here we are.) Weiber is the best gymnast in the world and even a bad day had her 4th in the world and is going home.

Also: can I just say I am disgusted by the badmouthing of teenage girls who cry when they get publicly screwed over. Setting aside the fact that most of these people are teenagers, the obsession with the beautiful and positive Olympic vision has got to stop. It's heartbreaking to train for something for four years and to come up short/have it taken away from you.

The expectation of being a robotic athletic machine who accept willy nilly whatever two-bit rule is enforced as is makes me even less likely to want to tune in. Real sport involves triumph and defeat, and the "suck it up, princess" mentality is sick.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:34 AM on August 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


In women's individual table tennis, Ding Ning was slammed with serving faults. Finally, she reverted to an older serve style that had never been a problem before, and was faulted on that too. When she questioned the ref and which part of the serve was illegal (height or angle), she immediately got a yellow and red card, simultaneously.

The BBC announcers were speechless, the crowd burst into boos, and even the head honcho ref guy came over and urgently questioned the acting ref.

Ding Ning was clearly shaken and her game did not recover. Now, she might have lost honestly, as well... but that wasn't an honest loss. That ref was way out of line. It's highly unusual to get carded for simply questioning why your serve was illegal.
posted by gilrain at 8:41 AM on August 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


Is there a bias against Chinese athletes?
posted by infini at 8:44 AM on August 1, 2012


infini: Is there a bias against Chinese athletes?

If you're using my account to further that, you needn't -- she was playing for the gold against another Chinese player, Li Xiouxia.
posted by gilrain at 8:47 AM on August 1, 2012


If the aim is to win a tournament and ultimately a gold medal, why is tactically not winning a preliminary round (which would be to your disadvantage if you did) wrong?
posted by panaceanot at 2:27 PM on August 1


Like you said; you don't understand good sportsmanship. If you truly cannot see why this is a disgraceful way for a sports player to behave, I doubt it can be explained to you.

Very good that these dirty sods got what was coming to them.
posted by Decani at 8:52 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Refs make mistakes, the point of the appeal process is to fix them, not say "Well, yeah, the ref was wrong, you lose anyway."

I wonder if the path the decision took is a reflection of the Western view on authority, responsibility, and culpability. I have very rarely seen an authority figure in America or Europe get something wrong and then have to make it right. This holds true at the local level as well as the national level, from the president all the way down to store managers at fast food joints.

It seems like the most common pattern is for the regulators/higher ups to acknowledge the elite person or corporate entity did something bad, quite possibly on purpose, and then fail to take the obvious and clear steps that would be required to fix the situation or reverse the advantage given by the fuckup.

The analogy here would be even stronger were the ref to be fined 0.0000001% of his weekly income (net after living expenses and reasonable discretionary spending allowance, of course) in order to send a strong signal about the unacceptability of the lapse.
posted by jsturgill at 8:55 AM on August 1, 2012


I have very rarely seen an authority figure in America or Europe get something wrong and then have to make it right.

Um, have you ever seen a challenge in an NFL game? Things are overturned all the time.
posted by inigo2 at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


This phenomenon is called "sportsmanlike dumping" by many observers. People have thought and written about it a lot.

Designing a competition in a way that encourages sportsmanlike dumping is a failure on the part of the organizers. The players should not be punished for doing their best to win the competition.
posted by Perplexity at 8:59 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reuters reported that Shin's "special medal" will read: "For aspiration to win and respect of the rules." To me that smacks of a Little Leaguer's trophy for "trying really hard." I'd be hard pressed not to tell them "fuck your 'special medal'"
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 9:03 AM on August 1, 2012 [12 favorites]


Apparently the people responsible for the fencing competition have now realized they fucked up, because they've offered Shin a special medal.

Which is kind of patronizing, if you ask me.

"No, you didn't win, but here's a SPECIAL medal, just for YOU! Isn't that nice?"
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:03 AM on August 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Um, have you ever seen a challenge in an NFL game? Things are overturned all the time.

My comment was just an observation, not an ironclad rule or serious socialogical comparison of sports rulings and methods of formal censure in the political and business arenas, or whatever. Fencing is a much more elite sport than football, and I saw a connection with a pattern I've seen outside of the sports world with elites. That's all. I'm sure rulings get overturned all the time in all sorts of sports, including fencing.
posted by jsturgill at 9:05 AM on August 1, 2012


"For aspiration to win and respect of the rules."

Isn't that something that applies to all Olympic athletes? I mean, apart from the ones that threw their badminton matches, of course.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:05 AM on August 1, 2012


I guess that's a better thing to put in your trophy case than a picture of her remaining on the piste until they denied her appeal.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:06 AM on August 1, 2012


I guess that's a better thing to put in your trophy case than a picture of her remaining on the piste until they denied her appeal.

Leaving the piste means you accept the decision currently in force. If she had left during the appeal, it would have been cancelled and she would have lost.
posted by Etrigan at 9:10 AM on August 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


infinitywaltz: "Which is kind of patronizing, if you ask me. "
I completely agree, and so does Shin from what I can tell.
posted by brokkr at 9:13 AM on August 1, 2012


Like you said; you don't understand good sportsmanship. If you truly cannot see why this is a disgraceful way for a sports player to behave, I doubt it can be explained to you.

Very good that these dirty sods got what was coming to them.


I think you're either being lazy or obtuse here. If you can't explain it, then perhaps it doesn't exist in the universally accepted way you think it does. If you can explain it, then please do.

The object of a sport is to win within the confines of the rules. In no way were those confines broken, however the rules (and these are new rules) made it strategically better not to win. That means those rules suck.

Think about it; your definition of sportsmanship means giving your all even if it's disadvantageous to do so. Do you really think that's the nature of sport, and by proxy, sportsmanship?
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 9:14 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let me just come in to say that the fact that it is impossible to find an actual video replay of this, in this day and age, is unbelievable, and ridiculous.

Yup. As a non-owner of a TV set, the 2012 London Games have pretty much lost me. I'm catching the odd controversy etc via news headlines but as for seeing any of it -- I seem to fall outside of the business plan, much like all the folks who'd love one of those empty seats we keep seeing.

Guess I'll just have to go read some literature.
posted by philip-random at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Leaving the piste means you accept the decision currently in force. If she had left during the appeal, it would have been cancelled and she would have lost.

I know. That's why I said it. Having a "special" medal is probably a better memento than just getting totally dicked over.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2012


> As a non-owner of a TV set

My TV owns me. Problem solved!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:17 AM on August 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Think about it; your definition of sportsmanship means giving your all even if it's disadvantageous to do so. Do you really think that's the nature of sport, and by proxy, sportsmanship?

Can I go with yes? I mean, as long as nobody dies? I've never heard someone in sport proudly exclaim 'I gave it fifty percent!'
posted by Ritchie at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2012


I've talked with some senior epee referees about the Shin bout, and according to the rules and according to the machine, the denial of her appeal was correct. The actual (and only) mistake the referee made in that bout was in allowing the athletes to come on guard too close to one another several times before the last touch (it looks as if this was the fault of both competitors). This is what made it possible for three simultaneous (and therefore, in the sudden-death situation, thrown out) touches to take place in such a short time. The timekeeper apparently pressed the timer in between touches by mistake; it is within the rules for the referee to estimate the time remaining and reset the clock in such a situation. A known characteristic of the timing machines is that they reset to the previous whole second. Heidenheim mentioned later that she was familiar with the characteristic of the machine, though I'd take that with a grain of salt.

Shin stayed on the piste because, as an earlier commenter said, she would invalidate her appeal if she left. And people cry because they are frustrated or angry, mostly. I disagree with the FIE idea of giving her a consolation prize. She lost, and she lost the bronze medal match immediately afterwards.

That doesn't mean the organization won't do something about the machines after the fact, of course. It also doesn't mean that the referee in that bout won't get punished for what was essentially not her fault.

Disclaimer: I'm a sabre fencer, not an epeeist.
posted by Peach at 9:25 AM on August 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


So what happens to the badminton players now? Particularly curious on what happens to yesterday's Badminton women's doubles between India and Singapore; India won against Singapore but failed to go to the next round on the basis of points.

The match generated some interesting loyalty questions between Mrs Cydonian and me, not just for our individual national identities, but also for _the players'_; ironically, the much accomplished grandfather of one of the Indian players, Jwala Gutta, was not just a Gandhian who actually lived with the Mahatma, but also one of the preeminent figures in South East Asian Chinese literary canon; like many Satyagrahis, he established many newspapers, but all of them in Chinese and in Singapore, KL and Penang. She has deep historical links with Singapore.

Could be wrong, and I really don't want to check on this (or address their origins save for highlighting this irony), but I *believe* the Singaporean players themselves, Shinta Mulia Sari and Lei Yao, are recent immigrants, presumably with lesser family connections than Jwala Gutta.

Everyone doubtless gave their best shot for the countries they chose to represent, but it did put people like Mrs C and me in a bit of a spot. Sadly, the eventual result was the worst possible outcome for us; both India and Singapore eventually lost out. So I'm really rooting for these two teams to get something positive out of this kerfuffle.
posted by the cydonian at 9:45 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


but I *believe* the Singaporean players themselves, Shinta Mulia Sari and Lei Yao, are recent immigrants, presumably with lesser family connections than Jwala Gutta.

I don't know about these two specifically but I do recall that there were some stories around Singapore's attempt's to buy medal worthy talent during the Asian games (or Commonwealth ones) and debates in the Straits Times about whether these 'imported' players were authentically Singaporean wins or not...

btw, that must have been some match for you and Mrs C to watch!
posted by infini at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2012


typoing apostrophes... ick
posted by infini at 9:57 AM on August 1, 2012


Watching women's soccer last night, it appeared (and was repeatedly mentioned by the commentators) that Japan was "conserving energy" and hardly playing against South Africa.
posted by papercake at 6:26 AM on August 1 [+] [!]


They were instructed not to score and let the game end with a draw so that they had a better matchup after group play. I don't see how this is any different from what the badminton players did, yet they're not facing the same scrutiny.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:59 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


According to this Mike Pesca piece (which is actually sympathetic to the argument that losing on purpose is not scandalous), badminton does, in fact, have a rule requiring you to extend your best effort to win the match. Not the tournament, but each match. If that's true, it takes something away from the "you can't blame them from trying to win within the rules," because match-throwing is a rule violation. If they've made throwing a match against the rules, however hard to enforce, that may be part of why they've designed the eliminations the way they have. Of course, I agree that it's unrealistic to think it won't happen, though perhaps not this blatantly, if you structure your tournament thusly.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:00 AM on August 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Can I go with yes? I mean, as long as nobody dies? I've never heard someone in sport proudly exclaim 'I gave it fifty percent!'

This is not a new problem, and the answer isn't "well they should try really hard anyways because SPORTSMANSHIP".

It happens every year in the NBA. A worse record gets you a better draft pick, so there is zero strategic reason to try to win games once you've given up on making the playoffs. Players still have pride so most of them still try, but coaches often throw in the towel and find ways to lose without looking like you're trying to lose -- witness the infamous Mark Madsen game.

The basketball blogosphere spends a lot of time thinking about ways to fix this, but there really isn't anything obvious. So we accept the the price of a flawed system is some really shitty games every once in a while.

To think that athletes and teams should try their hardest when it's against their best interest is absurd. Imagine if your boss told you he expected you to work late tonight to get a project done and if it's done by tomorrow he'll dock you a day's pay, but if it's not done till next week you'll get a bonus. Are you going to spend all night working on it because you really care about the company? Maybe you would, but a more reasonable reaction is that it's a systemic problem not a moral problem. Focus your anger at the organizers, not the athletes.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:13 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Olympics seem to be the suck this year, eh?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:13 AM on August 1, 2012


Admittedly, the rules should not be set up to favour unsportsmanlike play. However, there is at least one Olympic medal that rates higher than the gold medal: the Pierre de Coubertin medal. It is not awarded every year; only 15 people have ever received it. It's often been handed out to Olympic bureaucrats (the IOC can debase anything), but it's most properly awarded to athletes who put sportsmanship ahead of winning.

Examples:
Lawrence Lemieux, a sailor who was in medal position in the 1988 Olympics but dropped out of the race to rescue some capsized sailors.
Luz Long, who gave his opponent Jesse Owens helpful advice that led to Owens' 1936 long jump gold medal.
Eugenio Monti, an Italian bobsledder who in 1964 repaired the Canadian team's bobsled, preventing his opponents' disqualification and leading to a Canadian gold medal.

In such hands, it's a gold medal in being a human being.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:41 AM on August 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


the cydonian: "So I'm really rooting for these two teams to get something positive out of this kerfuffle."
Apparently the four empty berths go to a Russian, an Australian and two Canadian teams.
posted by brokkr at 11:29 AM on August 1, 2012


"The Olympics seem to be the suck this year, eh?"

Not for me. This is the first time I've been able to watch all of the fencing live in HD! When I think of the years I used to study old grainy vhs tapes to figure out what the europeans were doing...

" honestly for epee you could have a blind referee and it would work 99% of the time."

This is part of the problem. Directors tend to be foil or sabre specialists and view directing epee as easy work for the less elite. But I've also heard it described as "hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror". Controversies in epee tend to be less subjective yet easily missed things, resulting in embarrassment for the director.

"There is a technical issue in that the clock essentially resets to the nearest full second on every stop. "
"More precisely, it rounds up. If it reset to the nearest full second, it would have reset to 0. "


Neither is correct. Watch the other women's semifinal to see a fractional second end the bout. The full second was added properly by the referee in order to correct the timekeeper error. The director's mistake was in not adequately controlling the fencers distance and motion, which is not something that can be overturned on appeal.

" Heidenheim mentioned later that she was familiar with the characteristic of the machine, though I'd take that with a grain of salt. "

If you watch the bout (same US link as above), she is clearly well aware of the clock and playing it masterfully as is Shin. If Heidenheim didn't know that a full second had been added she would not have used counter-time, parrying Shin's counterattack before the final touch.
posted by Manjusri at 11:38 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Like you said; you don't understand good sportsmanship. If you truly cannot see why this is a disgraceful way for a sports player to behave, I doubt it can be explained to you.""

Lebusque doesn't know what racing is. ;)
posted by Manjusri at 12:13 PM on August 1, 2012


A rather obvious solution to these kinds of problems would be to use a straight up knock-out tournament scheme like in e.g. table tennis.

Group stages are still nice, though: more games overall and less impact from unlucky draws.

Another solution is to run each group as a double-elimination tournament without a grand finals -- the winner of the Winner's finals qualifies in first place and the winner of the Loser's finals qualifies in second place. This way, every match matters. For example:

Matches A and B are selected randomly or by seed.
The winners of A and B play match C to determine the first place qualifier.
The losers of A and B play match D.
The loser of C and the winner of D play match E to determine the second place qualifier.

I don't know if any sports use this format, though.
posted by Kevin1911 at 12:23 PM on August 1, 2012


Sounds like the Luz Long story isn't actually true?

The story of Long's advice to Owens has been challenged by Olympic historian Tom Ecker, who had studied the footage of the games. He stated that in 1965, after researching the evidence, he had confronted Owens, who admitted he had made up the story to please Long's son and that he had not met Long until the competition was over, when they quickly became friends. In his last letter to Owens before his death Long had asked him to speak to his son, writing, "Someday find my son ... tell him about how things can be between men on this Earth."
posted by jacalata at 12:54 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guess I'll just have to go read some literature.

Quietly, one can only hope.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:16 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those in Canada, here is a replay
posted by piyushnz at 1:27 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ancient dopers got their kicks from raw testicles
posted by homunculus at 1:32 PM on August 1, 2012


"As a non-owner of a TV set"
As a non-owner of a TV set, there was really never any chance you weren't going to tell us how you don't own a TV set.
posted by genghis at 1:33 PM on August 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


your definition of sportsmanship means giving your all even if it's disadvantageous to do so. Do you really think that's the nature of sport, and by proxy, sportsmanship?

Well, I certainly do.

"Winning by any means necessary" and "gaming the system" have no place in the Olympics.

There is a certain amount of acceptable strategy that may seem counterintuitive (at first) such as bicycle and short-track speed skating, where competitors will seem to go as slow as possible, or to yield the lead in mid-race, but the objective is still: WIN THE RACE.

It is NEVER disadvantageous to deliberately lose a match in the Olympics. The only benefit is that they might get an easier opponent in the next round.

The system itself is ultimately to blame, but the players themselves should be disgraced. How can one claim to be "the best in the world" simply by hoping to get matched up against weak teams?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:12 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


How can one claim to be "the best in the world" simply by hoping to get matched up against weak teams?

Because being "best in the world" just means "winning the gold medal". Any definition of "best" that deviates from that highlights a deficiency in the way the system to award the medals works. If "best" is a goal to be achieved that's not identical to winning the gold medal, then how is any competitor supposed to strive for it?

If the Olympics is going to hold up sportsmanship as an ideal, then they should make winning the medal the normal outcome for someone who most achieves that ideal of sportsmanship. Anything else is perverse.
posted by fatbird at 2:22 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you win all of your matches, you will win the gold medal. This could only be considered a "disadvantage" for teams that are admittedly not the best, but are simply hoping to get lucky. Shame on them.

(but yes, please fix the tournament system to prevent this kind of thing)
posted by ShutterBun at 2:31 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sport is a complicated tangle of man-made rules. If the aim is to win the tournament, and losing a game is advantageous, I can't possibly see how we can penalise people for it.

The cycling road race is made up of a huge collection of people who don't plan to win. They work to provide an aerodynamic shield for the sprinters that might actually win. If a group breaks off the front, the team mates of those in the leading group often work to disrupt the speed of the main group to give the leading group a better chance of getting away. It's a case of applying strategy to the rules of the game to get the most advantageous result for your team.

If (and if, because I don't know what the case is with badminton) there is no rule against deliberately losing a game at competition level, then kicking players out for not breaking the rules is ridiculous. If there's a rule against it, then they violated the rules and so rightly deserve to be kicked out.

Sportsmanship's a fairly empty concept. Combat sports involve punching other people in the face. We consider that to be sportsmanshiply because it's within the rules. Once it's outwith the rules (clawing their eyes out, for instance), then it stops being sportsmanshiply.

If they are simply playing within the rules, there shouldn't be an issue.
posted by leo_r at 2:37 PM on August 1, 2012


If you win all of your matches, you will win the gold medal. This could only be considered a "disadvantage" for teams that are admittedly not the best, but are simply hoping to get lucky. Shame on them.

If you're at an Olympic level, you are acutely aware of how good you are and how good other people are. If you genuinely believe you don't have a chance at beating the top two people/teams in your sport, but you have a good chance of getting a bronze if you don't run up against one of those two teams in the quarterfinals, it's not "hoping to get lucky."
posted by Etrigan at 2:38 PM on August 1, 2012


Yeah, if you can watch this video (previously linked) of the badminton players—ostensibly the best in the world at the sport—intentionally flubbing beginner-level serves and lazily whiffing at slow-dropping return shots, without feeling slightly repulsed by the whole sorry spectacle, then you and I have vastly differing definitions of the concept of sportsmanship.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:39 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess what's really needed is a way to compete for the right to lose a match.

(Having four prizes instead of three might help a little as well)
posted by tychotesla at 2:50 PM on August 1, 2012


you and I have vastly differing definitions of the concept of sportsmanship

It's not that we think they were acting sportsmanlike. It's that the rules they were given provided conflicting incentives: win the medal by losing the match; or win the match, lose the medal, but display some nebulous sense of "sportsmanship" that's not written down anywhere but we know it when we see it.

I don't blame the athletes for playing the game they were given to play.
posted by fatbird at 3:20 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Ancient dopers got their kicks from raw testicles

In Soviet Russia pre-modern Olympic games testicles kick you?
posted by Burhanistan at 3:26 PM on August 1, 2012


On the other hand, the Japanese men's gymnastics team won their silver medal after winning an appeal on the judges' decision on Uchimura's dismount. I am seriously hoping for the addition of "administrative law" as an event in future Olympic games.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:55 PM on August 1, 2012


I think what's missing from an academic discussion of "being the best" vs "winning gold" is the fact that the purpose of this match-throwing was to make it more likely that one country would win both silver and gold. It's not an issue of a weaker team getting a better medal - it's an issue of assuring that your second-best team will get silver (by playing your best team in the final) instead of bronze (by playing your best team in the semifinal).

(I also feel pedantic enough to point out that the US Gymnastics delegation was one of the biggest backers of the "only two gymnasts from any country in the individual all-around competition," so the fact that we got burned by it probably seems rather juicy to China, Romania, and Russia)
posted by muddgirl at 4:45 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm inclined to suspect that if China were in the U.S.'s position, they would have instructed their other gymnasts to tank, ensuring that Wieber made it into the All-Around finals.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:48 PM on August 1, 2012


Sport is a complicated tangle of man-made rules. If the aim is to win the tournament, and losing a game is advantageous, I can't possibly see how we can penalise people for it.

Rubbish. One might as well say "If the aim is to win the tournament, and somehow arranging that the other team doesn't turn up is advantageous, then I can't possibly see how we can penalise people for bribing a bus driver".

Sport is played within a context of assumptions of behaviour that are not all codified in the rules (even if this badminton one is. Tennis has a similar rule that the players must make an effort to win the match, actually).
posted by jacalata at 5:33 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


btw, that must have been some match for you and Mrs C to watch!

Infini, heh, truth be told we were more excited by Jwala Gutta's granddad; he's an enigmatic figure, partially because he preferred using the name given to him by Tagore, Santhidoot, while he was in India. Confusingly enough, virtually all the Indian (web) sources that tried to quote his Chinese name actually used the Chinese transliteration of his Indian name, which he never used in his written work.

The match was bleh; all this was more exciting. :)
posted by the cydonian at 6:42 PM on August 1, 2012


I know this totally unrelated, but my favorite olympian, by name, is Ranomi Kromowidjojo.

It's true. My fave. Dutch swimmer just broke a world record, too.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:46 PM on August 1, 2012


disillusioned: "Ad-laden video of the alleged game-throwing/deliberate errors."
NBC is only allowed to show Olympic competition video on the internet to users in the United States and U.S. Territories.
Users outside of those locations will still have access to an extensive set of non-event video on NBCOlympics.com.
Well, thankfully I'm stoked about watching some non-events on video!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:50 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sirlin (who makes games, as it happens) has a fairly good writeup of why this happened and whose fault it is:

www.sirlin.net/blog/2012/8/1/playing-to-win-in-badminton.html

Essentially, it really is the rules and system which strongly incentivise this sort of behavior. You can say, 'oh, it's not in the spirit of the games', but this isn't a athlete bribing another athlete, or bribing an official to be better; it's simply playing optimally in a less important match. Yes, they're not giving it their all — but they're not -cheating-.
posted by Han Tzu at 6:55 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, they're not giving it their all — but they're not -cheating-.

they cheated the paying audience out of a world-class level badminton game - if they wanted to see the sort of play they were forced to witness, they could have just gone down to their local elementary school

except when kids play like that, they just look like clumsy kids

when world class athletes play like that, they look stupid - how anyone could respect themselves after that display of deliberate, mouth-drooling imbecility, i don't know
posted by pyramid termite at 7:31 PM on August 1, 2012


they cheated the paying audience out of a world-class level badminton game

Interestingly enough, that's addressed near the start of the article. If the tournament format leads to some teams desiring to lose, then at least give them an option to forfeit.
posted by muddgirl at 7:38 PM on August 1, 2012


From the sirlin article:
If you think you have an easier chance of beating team Y, you absolutely should lose on purpose. If you don't, you aren't playing to win, and you are kind of a bad competitor.

Even if beating Team Y will only get you a silver medal, at best? This is nothing but a grab for medals by players who would rather face the easiest opponents they can just so they can stand on the podium, as opposed to simply giving it their all. They're afraid to face a tougher opponent, and are willing to humiliate themselves, their country, and their sport in order to avoid stiff competition? And these people somehow deserve Olympic medals?

I'll say it again: if you win all your matches, you'll get your medal. Exploiting a loophole in a flawed tournament structure may be good gamesmanship, but it's lousy sportsmanship. It's in direct conflict with the philosophy of the Olympics (which emphasize struggle over accomplishment)
posted by ShutterBun at 8:05 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


which emphasize struggle over accomplishment

Then why do we give medals to the winners, and not the person who struggled the most to get there?
posted by muddgirl at 8:07 PM on August 1, 2012


Because ordinarily (or at least ideally), getting a medal has been a direct result of struggle/effort, etc. as opposed to a lucky draw in tournament seeding.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:19 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't believe that the person who wins the gold medal struggled proportionally harder than the person who came in third, who struggled proportionally harder than the person who came in last. It's a fun fantasy that we have, that genentics and the lucky accident of where we're born don't affect our outcome in life, but they absolutely do. If we gave medals for struggle and effort, doesn't Orozco deserve one?
posted by muddgirl at 8:22 PM on August 1, 2012


Meanwhile, the parents of a Chinese diver kept news of death of her grandparents, and her mother's breast cancer for a year until she won the gold medal:
"It was essential to tell this white lie," said her father Wu Yuming [...] "We accepted a long time ago that she doesn't belong entirely to us," Wu Yuming told the Shanghai Morning Post. "I don't even dare to think about things like enjoying family happiness."
Words fail me.
posted by the cydonian at 8:37 PM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


We certainly *value* stories of struggle like Orozco's, but it would be a bit tough to quantify vs. other athletes. And medals for effort are generally kinda scoffed at (see above).
posted by ShutterBun at 8:38 PM on August 1, 2012


Exploiting a loophole in a flawed tournament structure may be good gamesmanship, but it's lousy sportsmanship.

Putting the athlete in a position of having to choose between these is lousy, and is a flaw in the system for which we shouldn't punish the athlete for choosing incorrectly, when we send conflicting signals about which is correct.
posted by fatbird at 8:40 PM on August 1, 2012


They went to the Olympics and decided to lose on purpose, rather than face the #2 team in the World (who had unexpectedly lost their first game)

Fuck 'em.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:57 PM on August 1, 2012


I am compelled to completely support the badminton disqualifications in light of the fact that the coveted playoff position has fallen to the Canadian team as a result.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:29 PM on August 1, 2012


They went to the Olympics and decided to lose on purpose, rather than face the #2 team in the World (who had unexpectedly lost their first game)

Fuck 'em.


They devoted their lives to badminton in the hope that they might achieve Olympic glory. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a decent amount of money on the line, in the form of medal bonuses, as well. They tried to do the best for themselves, whilst following the letter of the law.

It's easy to conduct lectures on sportsmanship when you're only an observer on the sidelines.
posted by quosimosaur at 11:33 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


ShutterBun: This is nothing but a grab for medals by players who would rather face the easiest opponents they can just so they can stand on the podium, as opposed to simply giving it their all

Do you think luck plays any significant part in winning a gold medal?

If no, then then the transitive relation of the calibre of the competitors should be upheld irrespective of any path taken towards the medal match i.e. if A > B > C > D, then even if C loses to avoid an early showdown with A, they still have to beat A (or whoever beat A) to get the gold. There's no effective short-circuiting towards getting the gold.

If yes, then, should the players knowing that, purposefully not try to optimize their own luck in favour of some nebulous notion of sportsmanship towards other opponents who themselves will be relying on requisite luck?

And your suggestion of an unbroken victory streak to the gold is Pollyannaish and not required or expected by the organizers; many sports have repechages, others drop the worst (and best) trials. Each iteration and action of the competition play isn't expected to be optimized.
posted by Gyan at 1:26 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gyan: "If no, then then the transitive relation of the calibre of the competitors should be upheld irrespective of any path taken towards the medal match i.e. if A > B > C > D, then even if C loses to avoid an early showdown with A, they still have to beat A (or whoever beat A) to get the gold. There's no effective short-circuiting towards getting the gold."
You've completely missed the point. If they expect to lose to a better team, then throwing the match means the difference between silver and bronze.

This is an object lesson in perverse incentives. Both the organisation responsible for the tournament format (I don't know if that's IOC or BWF) as well as the players taking advantage of it are to blame.
posted by brokkr at 3:13 AM on August 2, 2012


If they expect to lose to a better team, then throwing the match means the difference between silver and bronze.

Can you illustrate?
posted by Gyan at 3:34 AM on August 2, 2012


If they expect to lose to a better team, then throwing the match means the difference between silver and bronze.

Can you illustrate?


For instance, if you win your last group match, you know that you'll be in a bracket where you meet Team Awesome in the semifinals. You know you'll lose that match, which puts you in the bronze medal game.

Or if you lose that last group match, you'll be in the other bracket, with a bunch of teams you have a better chance against. So you win that bracket and meet Team Awesome in the finals, where even if you lose, you get a silver.

So if you absolutely know that Team Awesome > You > Everyone else, then it behooves You to stay out of Team Awesome's bracket.
posted by Etrigan at 4:49 AM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


We certainly *value* stories of struggle like Orozco's, but it would be a bit tough to quantify vs. other athletes. And medals for effort are generally kinda scoffed at (see above).

Exactly? That's my point - it's sort of a Western, or at least an American, conceit that athletics is about the triumph of physicial struggle, or what-have-you, but we don't actually value that struggle in any meaningful (ie monetary) way - "Our country's sporting culture is built on winning championships; second place is the first loser, after all." Meanwhile, the Chinese teams purposefully accomplish what we only do my accident - they've turned 'amateur sports' into a job for their athletes, and are very successful at it. For some reason, it's offensive to us when a team stops pretending that their job is to win gold medals.
posted by muddgirl at 6:05 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The incentive is to maximize the # of medals for your country. I imagine China spent a lot of time trying to strategize getting both pairs on the podium.
posted by Theta States at 6:25 AM on August 2, 2012


Etrigan, well yeah, I was only talking about gold and so was ShutterBun ("if you win all your matches, you'll get your medal"). Knock-outs aren't designed to accurately rank-order beyond Rank 1.
posted by Gyan at 6:46 AM on August 2, 2012


So, when you asked for an illustration of how throwing a match means the difference between silver and bronze, you were actually asking about gold?

I think you might have misunderstood what ShutterBun meant by "standing on the podium." I don't want to speak for someone else, but that phrase is generally used to indicate that Olympians may be willing to take a safer shot at a silver or bronze (and not just in knockout tournaments) rather than going for gold and possibly not winning any medal at all.
posted by Etrigan at 7:17 AM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Team orders in Formula One. Same stupid thing.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:41 AM on August 2, 2012


They devoted their lives to badminton in the hope that they might achieve Olympic glory. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a decent amount of money on the line, in the form of medal bonuses, as well. They tried to do the best for themselves, whilst following the letter of the law.

They may have devoted their lives to badminton and Olympic glory, but there's a good chance that badminton will be one of the sports eliminated from the Olympics, because of this and repeated issues with match fixing elsewhere, so that all sort of backfired on a massive scale.

While the the athletes are pawns to some degree, I can't help wondering what they thought was going to happen, given how jaw droppingly obviously they were throwing those matches. This is badminton's only global exposure on a grand scale: did no one think that there might be consequences for taking advantage of the rules in such a fashion? Presumably the coaches and management at least should have some longer term vision that included them being able to compete at the Olympics in future years.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:43 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Presumably the coaches and management at least should have some longer term vision that included them being able to compete at the Olympics in future years.

I've been assuming it was the coaches and management that told them to throw the matches. I don't think they leave decisions like that up to the players. Has there been any light on this aspect?
posted by fatbird at 8:51 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I assume it was mainly up to the coaches, etc. as well, which is what makes this insanely stupid as a strategy (or, at least, as an obvious one). Yes, you want to win medals in the Olympics, but I imagine you also want your sport to stay in the Olympics and not have this platform be a place where all the issues elsewhere come to the fore. The Olympics doesn't need you as much as you need it and the IOC is a shark; as a minor sport you don't start thrashing around and expect it not to get noticed. (if you're a big sport, you can do pretty much whatever you like, of course.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:46 AM on August 2, 2012


As I've said elsewhere: it's really not good tournament strategy to take the piss out of your sport on its biggest global stage. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

So you have to wonder why they switched from the standard knock-out format?

Logistics, I think. Badminton gets a week to complete its tournament, and the federation either arranges a smaller knockout draw or offers byes; I think the intention behind group pools was to ensure that competitors got to play more than one match and spectators got more matches to watch.

In addition, the Olympics isn't like a standalone tournament, because it has more per-country restrictions, which leads to a broader but slightly weaker competition. For "minority" sports, this is a once-every-four-years chance to put themselves on a world stage, so there's a promotional element at work.
posted by holgate at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yesterday there was some pretty serious shenanigans going on in boxing (already having a reputation of Shenaniganville):
Referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan has been sent home "with immediate effect" for his actions, mainly failing to rule a standing-eight count for any of the six instances in which Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov hit the canvas during the third round of his bantamweight (56kg/123 lbs) bout with Japan's Satoshi Shimizu on Wednesday.
Abdulhamidov was awarded the win by the judges, a decision that was later overturned by AIBA hours later. (from here)
If you can see the video where you are, I recommend watching it - it's astounding. Similarly to the badminton one, it's so clear something hinky is going on even if you know nothing about the sport (with fencing, when I watched it I couldn't really tell immediately what to think). And listening to the commentators lose their shit is also pretty great.
posted by marylynn at 1:34 PM on August 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


> And listening to the commentators lose their shit is also pretty great.

Wow, it seemed like one of them stopped being any sort of commentator and was actually just yelling at the ref.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:43 PM on August 2, 2012


suggestion: introduce randomization between the selection of top and bottom seeds in building the knockout rally, to avoid gaming.
i.e. you either enter the the knockout tournament as an underdog, or a top seed. That's it.
And, underdogs are forced to play wearing silly hats.
posted by Theta States at 10:23 PM on August 2, 2012


Olympians may be willing to take a safer shot at a silver or bronze (and not just in knockout tournaments) rather than going for gold and possibly not winning any medal at all.

That's pretty much what I was suggesting, yeah. The whole thing seems to have started because China wanted to make sure it finished 1,2 which would have been impossible if China 1 and China 2 met in the semis. Then it started a domino effect among the other teams, who were essentially sending the message "we don't wanna play China 2, they're too good!"

It's maybe just a personal preference of mine, but "gaming" the tournament rules like this belongs in Billiards wagering, not the Olympics (which, despite my otherwise jaded nature, I still consider to be something special)
posted by ShutterBun at 1:30 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You seem to be saying that even if a team knows that they're the second-best in the field, they should go for the gold they won't likely get and hope the draw hands them the silver. Since the Olympics do recognize the top three finalists, that still strikes me as Pollyannaish.
posted by Gyan at 2:15 AM on August 3, 2012


Sure on a general basis they should go for the gold. Because in a knockout game anything is possible. We've all seen sports where someone plays way beyond their capabilities for that one game and takes out an elite opponent; that's what caused this situation in the first place. Wimbledon produces at least one massive upset that year, etc. Is it really the case that in badminton there is such a massive gap between the first ranked team and the third that there is no hope of them ever beating them? Do none of these players have off days or injuries? Are there really Olympians who would prefer a silver to a gold? The problem here as far as I can see and read about is one country's coaches and handlers wanting a one two set up in the final (and it would have been funny if both the teams had been allowed to go forward and not made the semis), that causing a chain reaction, and a sport where these issues have arisen before and not been dealt with. But while you can serve up clearly substandard and dodgy games in a world cup for a minor sport, it's suicidal to do that at the Olympics.

Again, I don't get why nobody thought this through in terms of a long term strategy. Does it benefit the coaches over the long run to throw these games, get the gold and silver and have their sport potentially tossed from the Olympics? It's not like many people will care if badminton goes, except the players and their coaches. I must admit to being rather fascinated by the banker like short term thinking on display here from several countries, especially as it looks like badminton was already a sport they were thinking about eliminating.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:36 PM on August 3, 2012


You seem to be saying that even if a team knows that they're the second-best in the field, they should go for the gold they won't likely get and hope the draw hands them the silver. Since the Olympics do recognize the top three finalists, that still strikes me as Pollyannaish.

except, of course, they got thrown out and now have NO medals and no placing - even a 4th place finish is better than that
posted by pyramid termite at 7:19 PM on August 3, 2012


That's because they messed up the execution by overtly throwing the game at the highest-profile event, in front of a big audience, most of whom are uninitiated in the world of badminton, and were naively expecting a straight-forward competition. This is mostly an issue of cosmetics, and going forward, the key constructive change has to come from the organizers, not the players.
posted by Gyan at 11:52 PM on August 3, 2012


The timekeeper for the controversial epee match was reportedly a 15 year old volunteer.
posted by Manjusri at 8:57 AM on August 4, 2012


They devoted their lives to badminton in the hope that they might achieve Olympic glory. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a decent amount of money on the line, in the form of medal bonuses, as well. They tried to do the best for themselves, whilst following the letter of the law.

It's easy to conduct lectures on sportsmanship when you're only an observer on the sidelines.


Long-time (struggling) competitive tennis player and (somewhat successful) competitive table tennis player here (as well as a competitive soccer and basketball player and coach):

In a double-elimination tourney, a situation will certainly arise from time to time when you would be better off losing in order to get further in the draw. And yet, the vast, vast majority of players that I've seen in that situation seem to accept and reject that "perverse incentive" to lose. Or it's not even a consideration. They try to win *every* match.

The rules of badminton specifically prohibit "not using one's best efforts to win a match." Without that rule, sure go for it, I guess, but the decision to me seems fairly easy here. These players tainted the entire tournament.

If you watch the raw video of the South Korea-China match, you can hear the official warn them clearly that they will be disqualified from the competition if they continue with their charade.

Hey: start playing for real! It kinda sucks for the South Koreans cuz it looks like China started it (and if SK hadn't done it too, no one would have noticed or cared). It also seems odd to penalize someone for throwing a match that they won.

To think that athletes and teams should try their hardest when it's against their best interest is absurd.

The thing is, ask any competitive athlete, and they will tell you that their best interest is to win their current match, game, set, whatever. Excluding re-habbing, etc. (almost) every competitive athlete wants to win every game. It's that simple.

Throwing a match in order to have a better chance at getting a silver instead of a bronze has nothing to do with the athletes' interest and everything to do with their coaches and countries' interest.

Chinese (and American, or any other country that uses professionals) players know that, I suppose:

"China completed a stunning sweep of all five gold medals at the London Games' scandal-hit badminton tournament on Sunday, clinching both the men's singles and doubles titles to send red-clad fans delirious with delight at Wembley Arena."
posted by mrgrimm at 9:08 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Algerian distance runner disqualified for not trying

Taoufik Makhloufi was a likely medal contender for Tuesday's 1500m event, however, Algerian officials missed the deadline for withdrawing him from the 800m event, thus obligating him to compete in that event today.

Three quarters of the way into the first lap of the two lap qualifying heat, Makhloufi stopped running, wandered into the infield, past the pole vault area, and crossed to the other side to cheer on the rest of the field in the race he was supposed to be running in.

The International Association of Athletics Federations found the 24-year-old African champion guilty of "failure to compete honestly with bona fide effort" and has excluded him from further participation in the 2012 Olympics.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:08 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


They added an update on that article - he is being allowed in the 1500m final.
posted by jacalata at 12:32 PM on August 6, 2012


Apparently the doctor's note was for a knee injury. I would have presumed it was a temporary psychological ailment of some kind.
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:47 PM on August 6, 2012


Am I the only person on the internet who finds it more ridiculous that a runner couldn't withdraw from a race, than that a runner would stop running during the first lap? They have a freaking withdrawal deadline on physical exertion?
posted by muddgirl at 12:52 PM on August 6, 2012


From my googling, it looks like the withdraw deadline enables the organizers to select and inform the next available athlete eligible to fill the spot. This was a qualifying heat, so presumably the spot would have gone to someone who had narrowly missed out on competing - someone who was brought along to London as an alternate in case of illness or injury. The spot-filler wouldn't necessarily have been an Algerian competitor.

Said deadline for the 800m race was on Sunday, but I don't know if it was before or after Makhloufi won the semi-final 1500m race on that same day. Most news sources seem to be implying that the withdrawal was something the Algerian team officials were supposed to file but forgot or didn't do on time.
posted by ceribus peribus at 1:26 PM on August 6, 2012


I understand the purpose of a withdrawal deadline, I just don't think it's fair to competitors to say, "Oh, your committee forgot to withdraw you from this race you don't want to run - better put in your best effort or we'll disqualify you from all the rest of your events. We'll also probably mock you on the internet."
posted by muddgirl at 11:33 AM on August 7, 2012


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