Wednesday, August 01, 2012

It's Not The Winning But The Taking Part.....

Interesting to hear the story about the Chinese and South Korean women's doubles badminton team incurring the wrath of the media and spectators for not trying hard enough in their match with South Korea last night. Both teams had already qualified for the quarter finals but neither wanted to face the stronger, other Chinese team in the knockout stage and so decided to see how many times they could hit the shuttlecock into the net or simply out of play. Eventually the referee stepped in to warn them about 'not competing' and the Koreans won. One of the spectators on the radio stated that it had been the worse display he had seen in over 500 badminton tournaments. 500!

This news came a few hours after the Japanese manager had told his women's football team not to go for a win against South Africa because he wanted them to remain based in Cardiff for the quarter finals. Of course this idea of not performing to your best isn't new, last season the South African men's football team coach managed to cock things up with his instructions to his players to ease off which resulted in the team failing to qualify for the African Cup of Nations. In England you can go back to the relegation of Man City in May 1996 when Alan Ball instructed his players to play keep ball in the corner during their 2-2 draw with Liverpool rather than going for the win because he thought that Coventry (who would stay up only if they won) were losing. By the time Niall Quinn made his famous run out of the Maine Road tunnel to tell Ball that City needed to win it was too late.

And of course F1 fans can probably remember exactly where they were in May 2001 when poor old Rubens Barrichello was leading the Austrian Grand Prix coming out of the last corner when Ferrari boss Jean Rodt told him over the radio to 'let Michael pass'. Schumacher won the race and increased his lead in the drivers championship over David Coulthard, a lead that would have been reduced to two points had Schumi failed to win.

A few weeks ago speedway fans were treated to the sight of first Denmark and then Australia trying to finish last in heats 16 and 17 of the Speedway World Cup final in Sweden. The World Cup has this bizarre rule which allows teams to play a joker and double their points in any given heat when they fall six points behind the leading team, Denmark knew that they could prevent Australia falling six points behind going into heat 16 if they finished last and caused Australia to get a point so coming off the last bend Niki Pedersen rolled back his throttle and allowed Jason Crump to go by. In the next heat, much to the consternation of Sky commentator Nigel Pearson, Aussie Davey Watt managed to finish last behind Mikkel B Jensen and set-up Chris Holder to ride in heat 18 with the joker. Holder duly collected six points, fortunately for the sanity of Nigel Pearson and all those watching Denmark won the World Cup. Last weeks letters page of Speedway Star was the first issue I have seen where the whole page was devoted to one subject, comments about the use and validity of the joker, with most people in agreement that it should be dispatched to somewhere dark and unpleasant immediately.

Manipulating the result is not something new in sport but usually when it does happen it is less obvious than in the above cases of China, South Korea, Rubens Barrichello and Australia, and what the public wants more than anything (records, medals, titles etc) is to see competition and two opposing sides trying.

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