Badminton match-throwers face rap
The Badminton World Federation have launched disciplinary proceedings after four women's doubles pairs appeared to throw Olympics matches.
In scenes of farce at Wembley Arena on Tuesday night, a pair from China, two from South Korea and another from Indonesia seemed to want to lose in an attempt to manipulate the London 2012 draw.
A statement from the BWF confirmed that all four pairs would face charges 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".
A disciplinary hearing will be held later on Wednesday morning with a decision announced later.
At present, all four pairs are included in the order of play with their quarter-finals scheduled for the evening session.
All the players were booed by an irate crowd as serves were deliberately hit into the net and shots hit wide and long on an embarrassing evening for the sport.
All four pairs had already qualified for the last eight, meaning that the only issues at stake were the final placings in the first-round group stage.
The fiasco began when Chinese top seeds Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang started to show little interest in beating Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na to finish top of Group A.
Coming second would have meant avoiding compatriots and second seeds Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei at least until the final.
Tian and Zhao had been sent off their natural path to the final as second seeds by defeat to Denmark's Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen earlier in the day.
The Koreans responded to China's antics by copying them and referee Thorsten Berg emerged to warn all the players.
The match restarted and the Koreans went on to win 21-14 21-11. The startling statistic revealed the longest rally in the first game had been just four strokes.
The matter did not end there as a second Korean pair, the third seeds Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung, then attempted to engineer defeat in their match against Indonesia's Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii.
Their motive was apparent retaliation to avoid Wang and Yu in the quarter-finals, an outcome they failed to achieve as they eventually won 18-21 21-14 21-12.
The Indonesians were not bystanders in the affair either as they responded to the Koreans by trying to lose themselves.
With the crowd getting increasingly restless, Berg again intervened and brandished the black card to disqualify the players.
He quickly rescinded his decision on protest but returned courtside, despite an attempt to restrain him by the Indonesia coach, as the histrionics - now including time-wasting - continued.
Korea's coach Sung Han-kook laid the blame squarely at the feet of China.
He said: "The Chinese started this. They did it first.
"It's a complicated thing with the draws. They didn't want to meet each other in the semi-final, they don't want that to happen.
"They (BWF) should do something about that."
Yu claimed the Chinese tactics had simply been to preserve energy ahead of the knockout phase.
She said: "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."
Polii stopped briefly to reporters after her match to offer a Bulgarian explanation.
She said: "I don't know what happened. If that's the game, we have to accept all the things.
"Either they want to trust us - we play bad or we play good. That is our control. Our control is only to play as good as we can."
Whatever reasons for the bizarre spectacle, it is certain to spark debate about the decision to introduce a round-robin stage as opposed to holding a straight knockout tournament.
The spotlight will also be cast once again on the Chinese, who dominate world badminton but have been accused of manipulation before.
Petya Nedelcheva, the Bulgarian women's singles 15th seed who had been playing on an adjacent court at the time of the first incident, was forthright in her general criticism.
She said: "China control everything. I don't know who controlled the match to lose but if it is China again, they did it so many times last year, they didn't play against each other in 20 matches. They do what they want."
Nedelcheva's comments are supported by figures compiled by online magazine Badzine earlier this year which show that of the 99 all-Chinese matches played in major tournaments in 2011, 20 were walkovers.
Gail Emms, an Olympic silver medallist in 2004, was watching in the arena.
She said: "It was a disgrace. We had four pairs on court trying to lose - very un-Olympic spirit.
"I'm furious. It is very embarrassing for our sport."
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge had been at the badminton on Tuesday but had left shortly before the drama unfolded.