By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
Eight badminton players were disqualified from the London Olympics for trying to lose matches.
Similar match-throwing practices reflected that the participating countries, coaches and players have distorted the Olympic spirit of fair competition in the pursuit of medals.
It is a great honour for participating countries to win Olympic medals. In addition to show the world that they are not weak, it also carries a political effect in anesthetising the people's nerves. Therefore, they do everything possible to get a medal. For example, Singapore relied on China-born Feng Tianwei to win its first women's individual table tennis Olympic medal in 52 years.
Governments of participating countries also offer generous rewards, and athletes on the podium will have their fame and fortune guaranteed. Take Malaysia as an example, the winner of an Olympic gold medal will receive RM1 million from the government and Olympic medalists will also receive a life-long pension of RM5,000 (gold), RM3,000 (silver) and RM2,000 (bronze). Also, the Kuala Lumpur Rackets Club (KLRC) dangles the carrot of a 12.5kg gold bar worth over RM2 million for gold medal winners.
The Olympic spirit is distorted when Olympic medals are glorified and commercialised. Even if they are playing against their compatriots, friendship is no longer prioritised. After table tennis world champion Ding Ning was defeated by her compatriot Li Xiaoxia in the women's single final, she refused to shake hands with Li.
Match-throwing has actually long been practised by China. In the women's single semi-finals of the 1987 World Table Tennis Championships, He Zhili refused to follow the arrangement of the coaching team. She defeated her compatriot Guan Jianhua and won the championship after beating South Korea's Yang Young-Ja, who had beaten her before, in the finals. She was marginalised by other team members when she returned home. In a fit of pique, she married a Japanese and changed her name to Koyama Chire. In 1994, she played and won the 1994 Asian Games singles title for her adopted country. She was then labelled as a "traitor".
It is also not the first time for the Chinese badminton team to deliberately lose matches and withdraw from matches, but no punishment was meted. The team's head coach Li Yongbo finally apologised this time. However, he simply passed the buck by blaming the new competition rules for causing the problem.
If the ultimate goal of the Olympics is to win medals while the Olympic Books record only the winners, then should participating countries and regions which have never won a medal be ashamed of themselves?
Solomon Islands has been participating in the Olympic Games since 1984 and even though it has never won a medal so far, it does not affect its athletes' enthusiasm to participate in Olympics.
A total of 203 countries and regions had participated in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Some 75 of them won all the 929 medals, leaving not even a bronze medal for the rest 128 countries and regions.
Many athletes participated to enjoy the process, such as 63-year-old Austrian Karl Münich, who competed in the men's individual sabre event at the 1912 Summer Olympics.
The world acclaims only for the winners but does not applaud for the losers. How could the winners gain glory without the participation of the losers?
From the Olympic Games to real life, including in academic pursuit and professional career, people have always been blindly chasing the title of number one, while neglecting the importance of a righteous mind.
Along the journey of life, there are not many champion seats available. Sometimes, living in peace of mind and enjoying a wonderful life is more valuable than being a champion.