Simon Jenkins feels that the criticism of certain Olympic badminton contestants for playing to lose is 'grossly unfair'. According to him, they were only trying to improve their chances of winning medals by avoiding tougher opponents in a later round; in other words, they were adopting an intelligent tactic overall. Those players have now been disqualified, in fact.
It's a shame that Jenkins is unaware of certain standard distinctions:
His view might make sense if the norms governing the sport accommodated throwing a game, but they appear not to: clause 4.5 of the World Badminton Federation's 'Players' Code of Conduct' [pdf] lists amongst on-site offences 'Not using one's best efforts to win a match'. Jenkins's first oversight, consequently, comes from an inability to distinguish between legitimate tactics within a game and the rules governing how a game must be played. As things are, these don't allow losing on purpose - a practice frowned upon in most sports. Later, he gets even more confused, writing:
I cannot see how, in sporting terms, this is any different from sprint cyclists hovering for an age on a curve, waiting for the right moment to surge forward.
As for watching people lose, that can develop its own rules and excitement. As a boy I recall the most engrossing event at the village sports day was the slow bicycle race. The only rule was that you had to stay on your bike and could not go backwards.