In the spirit of the Games

Disqualification from Olympics, subsequent acceptance of apologies holds many lessons for us as a nation.

Anum Fatima August 12, 2012

Though the Olympic Games 2012 have seen some teams and players being disqualified in their events, it was the disqualification of four pairs of women’s doubles badminton players in the early weeks of the Olympic Games that gives us insight into the spirit of these Games. The decision came after the Badminton World Federation (BWF) barred the pairs — top-seeds from China, two pairs from South Korea and one from Indonesia — on charges of throwing away matches.

The disqualification came when the players adopted a strategy of intentionally losing games in the group stages to leverage easier matches in the knockout round. Heavy criticism has been heaped on the new rules with the British Olympics Association Chairman Lord Moynihan stating that the format “needs to be investigated”. Players and officials alike are blaming the inefficiency of the BWF rules for their disqualification, while outraged fans are voicing their opinions on social networking websites and in newspapers.

While anger from ardent supporters is expected, it is the honour displayed by the respective nations and their coaches — though not denying that they should not have tried to manipulate the rules in the first place — which pales in comparison with anything one might see in our own country. It was admirable to see how coaches of the disqualified teams accepted the blame for proposing a strategy that went against the spirit of the Games and issued apologies to their respective nations. China’s badminton coach, Li Yongbo, said that the “Chinese players failed to demonstrate the fine tradition and fighting spirit of the national team. It’s me to blame”. Likewise, Indonesian newspapers and the Korean media were also seen voicing their dismay at the show put up by their athletes.

Rewind to Pakistan, and we see the Supreme Court pestering prime minister after prime minister to write the wretched letter to the Swiss authorities to no avail and with no regard whatsoever for the so-called ‘honour’ of the country. This is not surprising though, since apologising is anathema for all and sundry in Pakistan. The lack of regard for assuming responsibility in our land is not something unexpected, hence the conflict that has arisen over the writing of the letter. In fact, it even took the great superpower over six months to accept responsibility over the Salala incident. While the Olympics disqualification was embarrassing for the respective nations, it was accepted in the spirit of the Games and no furore was created by the authorities concerned and no conspiracy theories have followed thereafter.

However, two years back when our cricketers were caught in the storm of the spot-fixing controversy, at least two of them fought to death trying to deny charges heaped on them. In fact, it seemed that it was a matter of honour for these cricketers to keep pleading their innocence, only to be further humiliated by having the charges proved in a London court.

The disqualification from the Olympics and subsequent acceptance of apologies of those involved holds many lessons for us as a nation. The first step in progressing and not living with our heads buried in the sand is to recognise a mistake, apologise for it and then ensure that it is never repeated again. One of our many pitfalls as a nation has been the fact that anyone and everyone in a position of power has worn their ego on their sleeve, as a result of which, we have never been able to analyse and accept our weaknesses, let alone learn from them for the greater good of our nation.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2012.

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