Four Korean players competing in the women's doubles in badminton at the London Olympics were disqualified along with China and Indonesia. Korea and Indonesia were disqualified for playing poorly in order to secure a more favorable position by avoiding a match with China in the next round, while the Chinese team was kicked out for doing the same in order to prevent a possible face-off against another Chinese players later in the tournament.
The Korean public were speechless with embarrassment watching the listless game on TV on Wednesday. The athletes did not even bother to return volleys and appeared to aim at the net on purpose. It was simply embarrassing to see this display of poor sportsmanship. The Korean athletes said they protested when they saw the Chinese try to throw the match, but the Chinese continued even after being warned by the referee. But that is a poor excuse.
Sport should be about fair play, obeying rules, respecting the competitor and learning to overcome one's own limitations. But sport today is no longer about the joy of competing but focuses only on victory. Pierre de Coubertin must be spinning in his grave at what is happening today.
It has been some time since international sports competitions, and the Olympics in particular, have become stages to flaunt a country's prowess and bring its people together. Former socialist countries became sports superpowers by channeling their resources to nurture super athletes. The reason why Korea ranks among the world's top 10 in sport is because of a government-led system of training athletes. Under this system of centralized sport, winning and medal rankings mean everything.
Sport is becoming increasingly commercialized, and more and more professional athletes are competing in Olympic events, contrary to the spirit of nurturing amateur athletes. Despite that it is vital to strive to maintain the essence of sport, which is to give courage to people around the world, offer hope to children and teach them about fair play.
The Korean public no longer cheer only the winner. They are also deeply moved by those who are defeated but are able to keep their heads high. But the latest badminton fiasco shows us that the country is still fixated on victory. It must use the latest incident as an opportunity for some deep introspection.