Eight badminton players were thrown out of London 2012 yesterday after their match-fixing attempts outraged spectators and dragged the sport's Olympic tournament into farce.
Two Korean women's pairs, the Chinese top seeds and an Indonesian pair were booed off the courts at Wembley Arena on Tuesday night as they deliberately tried to lose matches so they could avoid facing stronger teams in the next round. Twelve hours later, badminton's governing body disqualified all eight following a lengthy disciplinary meeting.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) faced sharp criticism itself after it introduced a new "round robin", or group stage, format for the Olympics and then appeared paralysed by indecision when a referee disqualified participants in one of the matches, only to then revoke the decision.
Yesterday morning, the BWF issued a terse statement saying that the South Koreans, Chinese and Indonesians had been ordered out of the Olympics for "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".
Amid disgust and dismay from paying spectators, the head of the London Games organising committee, Lord Coe, said the teams' lack of effort was "depressing" and "unacceptable".
The controversy unfolded late on Tuesday when the Chinese top seeds in the women's doubles, Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli, and the South Koreans, Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, began their match with both pairs having already qualified for yesterday's quarter-final. Lori Halford, 35, who had paid £40 for tickets, said: "It was immediately clear that something wasn't right. The first shot went into the net. Then the next shot went into the net. The next return went under the net. There was no speed or strength to their play.
"At first we thought the players had choked but then it started to go out on Twitter and we realised what was really going on. It was really distasteful."
The match-fixing had it roots in a surprise result earlier in the day, when China's second seeds, Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, lost to a Danish pair. That meant Yang and Xiaoli had to lose to the South Koreans to avoid meeting their compatriots before a potential showdown in the final.
A similar desire to avoid the hot favourites seemed apparent in the second match, between the South Korean third seeds, Ha Jung-Eun and Kim Min-Jung, and the Indonesian pair, Meiliana Juahari and Greysia Polii. Amid jeers and shouts of "get off" from the crowd, the referee Thorsten Berg at one point produced a "black card" meaning disqualification. The sanction was withdrawn after representations from coaches.