There has – rightly – been much huffing, tutting and booing at the female Chinese, south Korean and Indonesian Badminton players who yesterday appeared to be deliberately trying to throw their matches in order to secure a more favourable draw. They have been charged with misconduct by the World Badminton Federation, and there’s talk of them having broken the Olympic oath.
Yet last week, as we sat, spellbound, watching the BBC1 drama about British gold medallists Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell, who won the men’s double sculls in the 1948 Olympics, I didn’t hear the same outrage. Yet Bushnell was quite open about the fact that they threw their first heat, deliberately coming second to France, in order to go through to the repechage and avoid the Danish rowers who were their greatest threat. Bushnell said in interview:
“Dickie decided we should lose the first heat so as not to meet the Danes in the semi-final. … I wouldn’t have had the nerve to do that. We could have won, but we didn’t.”
So before we get too carried away casting stones, we might just want to remember that the history of our own sport hasn’t been quite as glorious as we’d like to think.