Olympics badminton: Will China's reign continue?

By Zhuang Chen BBC Chinese
Chinese Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan
China's Lin Dan won gold at the Olympics - but is he stepping down from the sport?

China's badminton players may have completed an unprecedented clean sweep of all five titles at the London Olympics but the sport has still made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

After such an emphatic end to the tournament, the Chinese team poured onto the court on Sunday, waving and bowing to the chanting audience.

The sheer joy and excitement was in contrast to the cloud of controversy that hung over badminton last week when eight players - including China's world number one pairing - were expelled from the women's doubles for failing to try hard enough in an attempt to secure an easier draw in the knockout phase.

But there are real fears that the scandal will not only eclipse China's golden achievements in London but damage the sport's reputation long after the Games are over.

A commentary on China's popular portal website Sina.com asked: "Why on earth [did] China stage a farce of trying to lose a match given that it's capable of winning all the golds? It shows that China is not strong enough. It has damaged China's image."

China's former basketball star Yao Ming told the official Xinhua news agency: "If a gold medal is allowed to surpass our values, then I can only say that our values are inferior to the gold medal."

But speaking to the Chinese media on Sunday, Liu Fengyan, the director of China's Table Tennis and Badminton Administration, said: "The punishment of women's doubles made their team-mates more determined to win. The team's morale and mindset have not been affected. Instead, they are more motivated."

It seems Liu cannot talk about the success without mentioning the match-fixing scandal. The incident cast a shadow on China's badminton team and might still haunt them.

Before the men's singles final on Sunday, the chief of Badminton's World Federation (BWF) announced an investigation into players and coaches involved in the scandal.

Yun Cai and Haifeng Fu of China
China's domination of the sport looks set to continue

Thomas Lund said: "The judicial process will include a full evaluation on all accounts, including the players and the players' entourages."

That may well implicate Li Yongbo, head coach of China's badminton team. China's media widely reported that Li should shoulder the blame as the players only did what they were told to do.

The parents of Yu Yang, one of the disqualified players, told the media: "I don't think she would have done it on her own initiative".

China's Olympic Committee also promised to launch its own investigation and take further action over anyone implicated. Details of what that means are meagre but the Chinese are facing increasing pressure from the BWF, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the public.

The BWF executive board will meet in November to fully evaluate the incident. IOC President Jacques Rogge also hinted that his organisation would intervene if needed.

Lin Dan, winner of the men's singles, brushed aside the scandal. He said: "The athletes are trying their best to win."

The Chinese competitor then asked the media to help promote badminton become a real international sport, not only in Asia.

His final against Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei seemingly represents the end of one of the sport's greatest rivalries.

Lin, arguably the best badminton player in the world, became the first player to defend his Olympic title by beating Lee 15-21, 21-10, 21-19.

Indonesian newspaper with badminton scandal on front page
Olympic match throwing made headlines in countries such as Indonesia, where badminton has a strong presence

With 15 world titles under his belt, Lin is one of the world's most decorated players but the 29-year-old seems set to wind down his illustrious career.

"I want to take a break before thinking about my future," he said. "Unless I have a very clear target, I don't think I can continue to play as it becomes a burden."

While there is some ambiguity about Lin's future, his Malaysian arch-rival, Lee Chong Wei, has announced that he would be retiring after the London Olympics.

There is a lot for Lee to think about, in particular China's dominance in badminton.

"It's total domination. It's good for China but for the rest of the countries, they have to work harder."

As for Lin, he said his next "headache" involves wedding arrangements. Lin married former world champion Xie Xingfang but chose to postpone the celebrations until after the Olympics.

"I'd like to invite Lee Chong Wei, (Pete) Gade and Taufik (Hidayat) to my wedding," he joked. "They don't need to give me presents, only a red envelope (with money) will do".