Badminton scandal at Olympics
Head badminton referee Torsten Berg (AP)
London - The Olympics took a knock on Wednesday with news that women badminton players had thrown their matches at the London Games to get easier rivals in the playoffs.
Reaction from the Badminton World Federation was swift, and reflected the Olympic spirit of fair play: eight doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were disqualified from the Olympics for unsporting conduct, the federation announced.
The Chinese were accused of starting the problem by deliberately losing a game on Tuesday night. This led to other teams behaving in a similar way to try to force an easier quarter-final draw. At one stage both teams appeared to be trying to lose a game. The crowd seemed to catch on, and booed.
"Depressing. Who wants to sit through something like that?" Sebastian Coe, chairperson of the Olympic organising committee, said.
The International Olympic Committee said it would allow badminton's ruling body to deal with the controversy.
"We have full confidence in the federation to take any necessary steps," IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said. "They have the experience to deal with such issues."
Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. In the round-robin format, losing one game can lead to an easier matchup in the next round.
The embarrassment was tempered by some good news for the host nation: British rowers Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won the country's first gold medal in women's pair.
China's badminton players were not the country's only athletes to face scrutiny, as Beijing objected to speculation that China's newest swimming superstar Ye Shiwen was doping.
The 16-year-old first came under suspicion when on Saturday she swam a lap in the women's 400m individual medley a split-second faster than American winner Ryan Lochte. She also won Tuesday's 200-meter IM race.
Ye's father, Ye Qingsong, told Chinese media that western media are "always arrogant." Olympic organisers in London also defended the Chinese swimmer.
It was not all bad news for China on Wednesday.
Tang Yi qualified fastest in the women's 100m freestyle preliminaries, while Melanie Schlanger of Australia was second-quickest and world champion Jeanette Ottesen Gray of Denmark was third.
American Kristin Armstrong won her second straight Olympic time trial gold medal, covering the 29km course south of London in 37 minutes, 34.82 seconds. Judith Arndt of Germany took the silver and Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya picked up her second bronze of these games.
In Olympic basketball, Emilie Goubis scored 16 points and Isabelle Yacoubou added eight of her 14 in the fourth quarter to help France advance to the women's quarter-finals with a 64-60 victory over Canada on Wednesday.
In morning rowing, Princes William and Harry watched as Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won Britain's first gold. The athletes punched the air after they crossed the line, then cupped their mouths in disbelief. Australia and New Zealand followed for silver and bronze.
Germany's powerful eight-man crew crossed the line first for its first win in the high-profile event since the country was unified in 1990. Canada took silver and Britain settled for the bronze.
And New Zealand's dominant men's pair, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, qualified quickest from the semi-finals at the Olympic rowing regatta at an overcast Eton Dorney, beating second-place Italy by nearly eight seconds.
The British crew of George Nash and William Satch won the other heat. But Bond and Murray have not lost in four years as a pair, and anything other than a Kiwi win in the final would be a big surprise.