By Diane M. Grassi
The entire world is watching, and given the attention that the global media has recently dedicated to unethical behavior of certain Olympic athletes, sports fans could mistake it for a newly introduced Olympic sport of its own, during these 2012 London Summer Games.
Who would have ever thought that so many would ever choose to care about a women’s badminton tourney, which apparently is the new tipping point or benchmark for unethical behavior? And for an international organization a/k/a the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with a past littered with scandal and corruption well before most of us can remember, it is but a tad ironic.
And who would have ever thought that it would take a women’s soccer team, most notably the team who actually won the 2011 Women’s Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Soccer World Cup, who now are more notorious for unethical behavior than that very championship?
To wit, four women’s badminton doubles teams were accused of match-fixing during the first week of these Games, not playing all-out in order for them to get better seedings in the tournament, prior to the medal elimination rounds. The teams involved were the Chinese world doubles champion team, two South Korean doubles teams and an Indonesian doubles team.
In the case of the soccer team, it was ironically the team from Japan, arguably the chief rival of the United States women’s soccer team, who defeated the U.S. via a penalty kick after overtime, in the 2011 World Cup final match, which was derided by the media.
But here is where it gets interesting: The badminton teams were immediately suspended from the Games and sent home packing – much to the most likely chagrin of those in the legal sports betting parlors of London, where betting on anything is fair game and an Olympic sport unto itself.
And for the first time during these Games, were qualifying rounds introduced in badminton, rather than the all-elimination format used in the past. That opened up the door for match fudging. However, had it not been so blatant, perhaps it would not have been so “scandalous.”
And with regard to the Japanese soccer team, its coach fully admitted that he directed his team to deliberately not score at all in their match against South Africa. The final score remained 0-0.
And not only did it impact their seeding, as they assumed home field advantage in the next round against Brazil, but they did not have to travel some 400 miles to Glasgow, Scotland, to play either the U.S. or France, sequestered in Scotland, away from the games since before the official opening of the of these 2012. And their location even forced the U.S. soccer team to not participate in the Opening Ceremonies.
Therefore, Japan got to stay in Cardiff, Wales, just 124 miles from London, to begin their quarter-final match. And why the women’s soccer games are taking place in two foreign countries, outside of England, is a question for the London Olympic Games Organizing Committee (LOGOC), which perhaps the esteemed media has not gotten around to doing.
And since the locale of the Japan women’s team is key to their match-fixing, it is a good question to ask. Should the teams competing have an unfair advantage by virtue of the actual field on which they compete?
But – unlike how the badminton teams were treated, Japan’s coach and team, if they are at all penalized, it will be following the Olympics, and it will be up to FIFA, should it decide to get involved. Why the IOC should renounce its jurisdiction over Olympic medal winners to FIFA, makes it even more egregious.
Ironically, as it turns out, the U.S. will face Japan in the Gold Medal match on August 9th, where both will finally compete in England in the city of London at Wembley Stadium.
Now before your brain goes into vapor-lock in thinking that this is just another women’s sports article that you certainly have no use for, there is a big-picture point to be made, both historically and going forward. And that is the duplicitous manner of how punishment was rendered to the teams in these women’s tournaments, which is but steeped in hypocrisy.
There is plenty of blame to go around, as to the inner workings and seemingly overwhelming pieces that have to come together just right in order to coordinate any Winter or Summer Olympic Games. But the Olympics are no stranger to corruption and should itself have been considered a sport unto itself, by now.
From the bidding process for city locales, to the broadcasting rights and fees, to the sponsorships and now even the ticketing process, the Olympics mimic corrupt governments worldwide, which send their athletes to “participate” in order to bring glory home. And corruption does not discriminate; from the West to the East to the most impoverished nations, both north and south.
Many in the U.S. media no longer expect much from prima donna professional athletes and their sometimes horrible behavior, yet these same folks are all aghast at the female badminton and soccer teams and their unbecoming behavior.
And many such media types in the past have written that “we expect more of female athletes than male athletes” which not only presents the old double-standard, but an unchallenged type of sexism. But pretending to care about badminton and women’s international soccer, where soccer, even in the U.S., gets little gravitas except for maybe every four years, is but a joke.
The real story here could be the moral decay of government, the media and yes, the Olympics as an organization. And that athletes who supposedly “cheat” are but a symptom of such sacrilege. And given the many number of issues needing a fix in the Olympics’ oligarchy, it sadly cannot all be covered in just one report.
But to not provide a couple of such issues that have impacted not only those who are sports fans but sports consumers, and also to the good people of London, would be but a disservice.
Firstly, shopkeepers and small business owners, both proximate to Olympic venues and even those on its outskirts, were courted by both the IOC and the LOGOC, that the Games would be a boon for business and the London and Great Britain economies.
Yet, as the Games approached, even a butcher, who rolled sausages into the symbolic five Olympic rings and who then displayed them in his butcher shop window, was told to take down his pork, as it violated said pork of the Olympic sponsors and their agreements with the IOC.
No reference to “2012”, “London Olympics” or “gold rings” was to be allowed or tolerated in shop windows, or fines would ensue. And such word went out to the London and suburban business districts just two weeks prior to the Games of these rules.
In so far as ticketing and the fiasco it became, again, corporate sponsorships played a role. The dearth of seats being filled, even at major event venues, had the hands of corporate-give-away all over them.
The folks of London also were sold on the fact that the Olympics this time would be affordable, accessible and available to its residents and a “fans in front” policy would be a key component to getting a thumbs-up from Londoners.
What rather happened was that LOGOC, that insisted that events were sold out, were but reserved for international federations, IOC officials, sponsors, the media, participating and notable prior Olympians, amongst other elite groups, who were no-shows.
The LOGOC promises a “full review” of its ticketing policy, following the Games. Little good now, unless future Olympic committees are serious about a “fans in front” policy, rather than providing mere lip service.
And lastly, we have the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) which we should all feel sorry for, as it laid out $1.8 billion to broadcast these Games on multi-level broadcast outlets and platforms.
But the word “live” was given new meaning by NBC suits. There were few real “live” events on either broadcast television or online streaming, as promised prior to and even during the airing of these Games.. All marquee events, such as swimming, gymnastics or track and field, including preliminary heats for such, were completely unavailable “live” online on the day these events took place, and were to be broadcast on television in prime time that day via tape delay.
They were rather chopped up and served on a platter with the pretense that they were actually aired “live.” Yet, the media, and television and radio broadcasters were never shy about revealing results hours prior to the visuals being able to be viewed.
So what you say? How about cooling the unethical behavior by NBC? If they are not going to provide “live” availability for events, they should not pull a bait-and-switch on consumers.
And to try to wrap this up, the next time the media tries to distract its audience, by encouraging it to get fired up about an athlete or team trying to gain an edge, remember the big-picture.
For a misinformed public is but an ignorant one. And that is a far more a scarier proposition than a stray birdie in a game of badminton.
Copyright ©2012 Diane M. Grassi
All rights reserved.