The Chinese and South Korean badminton teams last night incurred the wrath of the paying public at Wembley Arena by consistently serving into the net and fluffing routine shots in an apparent bid to manipulate the draw and avoid their countrymen before the final.
The bizarre scenes at the women's doubles match between South Korea and China saw both teams, who had already qualified for the quarter finals, serving the shuttlecock into the net – with the referee warning the players about their conduct. China's pairing of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang eventually fell to a comprehensive defeat in a bid to finish second in their group.
Enraged spectators heckled the four players during and after the abject performance, which saw all four players on court miss routine shots, hitting them long or dumping them into the net. Tickets for the session cost between £20 and £75. Twice the referee came onto the court to speak to the players before South Korea won 21-14 and 21-11. The capitulation will now see the Chinese pairing avoid playing the other Chinese women in the competition, Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, until the final.
Last night a Locog spokeswoman said officials were looking at the match but would not say when there would be a decision on action taken against the Chinese paring.
After the match Yu Yang claimed that she and her partner had tried to save energy for the knockout rounds. "Actually these opponents really were strong," she said. "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. Really, it's not necessary to go out hard again when the knockout rounds are tomorrow."
The bid to lose sparked a flurry of criticism among fans. "And so ends the debate about the necessity for groups," said the commentator Mark Phelan. "Cheating disguised as tactics has started. Olympic values flushed down the toilet."
Gail Emms, who won silver in the badminton for Britain at Athens in 2004, said she did not blame the Chinese pairing for their tactics. She tweeted: "Ok on court 2 was WD china vs Korea. Both pairs TRYING to lose!!! This is why the group system DOESN'T work!!! Tactically play for a gd draw in the knockout stages. And I don't blame the them!!" she tweeted.
Both South Korean players, declined to comment.