Sportsmanship more important

Updated: 2012-08-03 08:10

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)

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Sportsmanship more important

I feel sorry for the eight badminton players who were disqualified from the London Olympic Games for not giving off their best to win, because athletes get a chance to win an Olympic medal only once in four years or maybe once a lifetime. But that is the cost the eight doubles players have to pay for what they did - violated the Olympic spirit by intentionally losing their final group matches after they had already qualified for the knockout round.

Some people say they wanted to lose to face weaker opponents in the knockout round. Whatever the reason, their action (or inaction) is a violation of all the rules of sportsmanship and an affront to the spectators who paid to watch them play.

Others say the new rules were to blame for the scandal. If you can win a medal by losing rather than winning a match, what would you do? Maybe the new group format leaves much to be desired and has loopholes which players can take advantage of to save energy for the knockout round or avoid the rivals they don't want to meet.

Still others argue that athletes take advantage of the rules to get the best result in all events. They say that it is natural for players to circumvent the rules to get medals. For example, swimmers will not go all out in the preliminary (or qualifying) rounds as long as they qualify for the next round.

As long as there is a possibility, athletes will circumvent or try to circumvent the rules. There is nothing wrong in saving some energy when the competition is not that severe. But there is a bottom line. And teams, coaches and players should know that line.

Many online postings allege that the Chinese badminton team "fixed" or "manipulated" matches to win a gold medal before. We are yet to know whether the team and coaches had arranged that. The Chinese delegation has said it will investigate the scandal.

Whatever the result of the investigation, the World Badminton Federation's decision to disqualify the two Chinese players along with others provides food for thought.

To win gold medals, we should always follow the philosophy of fair play. Under no circumstances should the means employed to win a gold medal violate the principle of fair play or the Olympic spirit, or be disrespectful to spectators.

Every gold medal won by an athlete brings honor for the country. But every athlete who flouts rules or violates the Olympic spirit to win a medal also smears the country's image.

Once they enter a competition, athletes are obliged to give off their best. Otherwise, they would go against the Olympic motto of "Faster, Higher, Stronger". Though the Olympic Games has another motto, "the most important thing is not to win but to take part", taking part does not mean not trying to one's capability.

Disgrace is not forced on a person but he or she invites it. This traditional Chinese saying is meant for people like the disqualified athletes. Hopefully, this scandal will serve as a wake-up call for all athletes, sports officials and coaches, and they will realize that medals are important but the Olympic spirit and sportsmanship are more important.

The author is a senior writer of China Daily. E-mail:

(China Daily 08/03/2012 page8)