There are times at which I feel as though I am seeing the world through different spectacles to everyone else, when the whole of the rest of society is in one camp and I’m in another and today is absolutely one of those days.
You may have seen the news about the eight badminton players disqualified from the Olympics for failing to use their best efforts to win. All four pairs were accused of wanting to lose their match in an effort to manipulate the draw for the knockout stage. There was talk of poor sportsmanship, a poor spectator experience and a tit-for-tat of “they started it first” between China, South Korea and Indonesia. All four teams are in disgrace and at least one of the eight players has retired from the sport entirely.
I heard the story, followed shortly after by what appeared to be a minor outburst of mass hysteria, calls for disqualification that might as well have been followed by calls for a public flogging, so strong was the condemnation of their actions, and here’s where I seem to be a lone voice on this one…
From where I see it they had their eyes on the prize, an Olympic gold medal. They wanted to win. The round robin system (as opposed to a straight knock-out tournament) meant that it was possible to manipulate the result in order to face the opponents most likely to deliver the result you wanted, moving you closer and closer to that final and to victory. Is that really so bad? In other circumstances, would many of us not do the same thing? This wasn’t about match fixing for cash or other personal gain, it was about wanting to win. Winning the match and winning the medal should go hand in hand, but in this sport it didn’t and it seems to me to be unfair to penalise the players who wanted the medal more than they wanted to win that early round match. Their actions look more like strategizing than cheating, to me.
I run an organisation that’s proudly principle-centred, that cares about things other than share-holder profit and that acts in ways that are very different from most businesses. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t set out to win, that we wouldn’t hesitate to spot an opportunity and exploit it, in order to achieve our goal. And if we were in that place of having to decide, do we win this early stage round or hold out and go for gold, I’m standing proud in saying I’d go for gold any day.