Bad Badminton and Hearty Hypocrisy

N.B. I normally try to avoid the inclusion of personal anecdotes in my blog posts. This post does include a bit of waffle about a personal experience, for which I apologise. I shall try very hard not to do it again.

Badminton players discuss with referee

In case you’ve been living under a rock, eight badminton players have been disqualified from the Olympic games after appearing to deliberately and farcically throw a match in order to obtain a more favourable draw in the next round. Spectators booed, Lord Coe condemned it as “depressing”, and (hugely qualified commentator on sporting matters) Piers Morgan has spent most of the morning tirading about the affair on Twitter, culminating in;

I’m not a fan of this condemnation at all. That’s not to say I endorse their actions: I simply can’t envisage wanting to succeed through corrupt means. Slightly clichéd as this might sound, I do think success is sweeter when you know you’ve done things the right way. My problem is that it’s all so hypocritical. Firstly, let’s take Piersy. He, with no sense of his own hypocrisy, followed up his ranting about the badminton players with a barrage of rhetoric about the value of coming first and how nothing else counts, e.g.

Morgan’s hypocrisy is much the same as the rest of the UK media. The BBC, for example, stopped showing the medal table in the TV coverage when it became evident that the UK’s lowly position of 21st wasn’t going to be vastly improved any time soon. The papers this morning were full of stories about the wait for Britain to win a gold, with everyone asking “is this the day?” every day. The media demands gold medals and success from our athletes, their coaches and support staff, and heaps inordinate amounts of pressure on them to succeed. Little surprise, then, that teams plot and scheme to optimise their chances of success.

I think it goes wider though, and here’s the awful personal stuff. It seems that as a nation, we heartily condone cheating and scheming (albeit within the rules) in order to get ahead. David Cameron famously told us that he was “very relaxed” about handing out invaluable internships to personal contacts. In the midst of the competitive application process for Graduate Entry Medicine, I repeatedly refused to use personal contacts in order to gain experience that others couldn’t access, insisting on sticking to the proper channels. I was told by friends and family alike that I was, bluntly, a fool. I remember such comments (from unnamed sources) as, “what on earth are you doing?” and “if you think you’re being noble, you’re an idiot”.

My take, thus, is that it’s really bizarre for there to be such an intense backlash against the conduct of these badminton players, undesirable as it may be. Such plotting to get ahead is the stuff of everyday life – what Cameron categorises as the essential nature of the modern world. We just don’t want to see it, so it’s unacceptable when it comes to sports people. I think this should be a cause for reflection.

Beyond that though, I want to move back to the more solid, earlier point, which should stand up regardless of how you take the point about internships, experience and such. Our media is braying for gold medals as if there’s no tomorrow, but has no hesitation in condemning those who discard propriety in pursuit of the same goals.

People in glass houses, and all…


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About Jon Robinson

Lefty ex-politics student turned med student, interested in current affairs, economics, gender politics and health issues. Occasionally pretends to understand philosophy. @jon__robinson

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