The badminton players disqualified from the Olympics didn’t cover themselves in glory when they tried to throw matches. Having already qualified for the tournament’s knockout round, players from South Korea, China, and Indonesia sought to lose their final group-stage matches in order to secure matchups against weaker opponents in the following round. Tournament officials found that the players, booed by fans for blatantly hitting shots into the net or out of bounds, were acting in a manner “clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.” So the officials justifiably threw them out of the tournament.
But what the players were trying to do was at least understandable under the Badminton World Federation’s poorly conceived rules. For these players, losing Wednesday would have made it easier to win a medal due to the vagaries of the group-stage system, which is being used in Olympic badminton for the first time. Tournament organizers could have easily avoided this by retaining the old single-elimination format, so that each match would feature teams fighting for their survival. If the badminton federation wanted to ensure that each team would play more than once, its reason for changing the format, they could have installed a double-elimination bracket requiring each team to lose twice before exiting.
Three countries took inappropriate advantage of weaknesses in the rules — but organizers should have kept the rules free of such damaging loopholes in the first place.