On Tuesday night at the London Games, some of the world’s best badminton players hit some of the sport’s worst shots. Sad serves into the net. Returns that sailed far wide. …On Wednesday, four women’s doubles teams — two from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia — were disqualified. …The eight players were found to have tried to lose their matches intentionally, apparently because they had determined that a loss would allow them to play a weaker opponent in the next round.
I don’t really understand the moral outrage over this. The competition is set up such that winning it is easiest if you lose some matches, but there are also sporting norms that say you have to do your best to win every game. Obviously, when the rewards to winning the competition are high, those incentives will over-ride the norms of sporting conduct. It’s no surprise that teams would try to throw a match, although I am surprised that they did it so obviously: you’d think they’d practice this sort of thing a lot if most competitions work this way.
There’s a more technical discussion of incentive compatibility constraints in the design of the competition over at Cheap Talk.