The smart cynic will be tempted to ho-hum the whole thing, between shuttlecock jokes, because it’s only badminton, right? As Deadspin’s Drew Magary says, “I eagerly await the IOC’s decision to approve plastic horseshoes as a sport in 2016.” Anyway, it’s pretty much impossible to violate the spirit of an event as corrupt as the Olympics. And don’t we see subtle varieties of tanking all the time in professional sports? How about NFL teams that bench their starters before the playoffs, or NBA teams that throw games to position themselves for the lottery? Is tanking so much different from pacing? Badminton apologists were already rationalizing the behavior of the Chinese, Koreans and Indonesians by saying the Olympic tournament should never have been a round robin. If it had been single elimination, everyone would have behaved.
But the trouble is, something deep down tells us that people who throw a game should have their necks stepped on, no matter how silly the event. For one thing, it defrauds spectators who in this case paid anywhere from $40 to $120 for a seat. “Who wants to sit through something like that?” Coe said. London organizers weren’t so moved, however, that they offered a refund. Paul Deighton, chief executive of the London committee, said “You get into all sorts of strange precedents if people aren’t satisfied with what they see. You don’t want to get into that territory because it’s gray and dangerous territory.”