in Markel!

Playing to Win in Badminton

David Sirlin:

And now we come to the actual problem with the Olympic badminton situation. There are “pools” of round robin play where the top 2 finishers from a pool advance to a single elimination bracket. Further, the system of seeding in the single elimination bracket is known ahead of time. This creates the situation where you could playing pool matches but *guaranteed* to make top 2 by your record. If you win, you will qualify and play team X. If you lose, you will also qualify, but you will play team Y. If you think you have an easier chance of beating team Y, you absolutely should lose on purpose. If you don’t, you aren’t playing to win, and you are kind of a bad competitor. You also happen to be playing in a tournament with absurdly bad rules.

This is the real hang-up with the badminton mess: the teams that were disqualified were doing their best to win the entire competition based on the structure of the tournament. This is the first year badminton has used a round robin opening round in the Olympics. Hopefully it will be the last.

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