22 years later and from a safe distance from her home country, Ye Zhaoying dares to report on fraud and match-fixing. Not just anywhere, but on the biggest stage that sport has to offer: at the Olympic Games. Not just anyone, but the best in their sport. Asked to do so by their coaches. This reports “Inside The Games”.
Ye Zhaoying is now 48 years old and lives in Malaga with her husband Hao Haidong, record goalscorer for the Chinese national soccer team. Earlier in her life as a badminton player, she won two world singles titles for China (1995 and 1997), topped the world rankings and won bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. After that she ended her career. And it’s about that last international medal. Ye Zhaoying claims she was ordered to lose the semifinals. “You feel powerless because you are alone against the whole system,” she told Danish broadcaster TV 2 Sport.
In that game she met her top seeded compatriot Gong Zhichao, who was rated higher at the time. In the second semi-final, Camilla Martin from Denmark and Dai Yun, also from China, then played for entry into the final.
The Chinese coaches and officials wanted to create the best chance of gold should the Dane win the second semi-final and, according to Ye, decided that Gong Zhichao had it. The evening before the game, according to the Danish TV station, the then head coach of the Chinese team (Li Yongbo) and the women’s head coach (Tang Xuehua) told Ye that she had to lose on purpose.
There was a similar case before, also in an Olympic semifinal, also starting from China: Coach Li Yongbo admitted some time ago that there was an agreement in the 2004 games in the women’s semifinals and Zhou Mi was instructed to lose to hand over the game to the later Olympic champion Zhang Ning in the first set.
Now, in the case of the Sydney Games, Ye saw no other option but to do as she was told. Otherwise she would have been labeled a traitor, says the 48-year-old. She lost 8:11, 8:11. Later, Gong won the final against the Danish. “The Olympics are a unique opportunity for an athlete, so it’s really sad when you have to lose, but as an individual, I couldn’t do anything about the system,” says Ye.
She also reports that she shouldn’t make the defeat too obvious, but on the other hand she shouldn’t tire her compatriot with a three-set game either. Ye is said to have later received a bonus payment of the equivalent of 16,400 euros – the sum that is also paid for an Olympic victory.
Wanting to lose too obviously – this was the case at the Olympic badminton tournament at the London 2012 Games, which was followed by a manipulation scandal. In women’s doubles, couples from China, South Korea and Indonesia tried to lose on purpose in order to meet supposedly easier opponents in the knockout phase. Since both pairs wanted to lose in a game, this meant that there were hardly any rallies. Eight players were then disqualified.
“The Olympic Games are the most important sporting event for China. Not only for the players, but above all for the coaches and the top management of the Chinese Sports Confederation,” reports Ye. “They have to set a goal of how many gold medals they expect to win. That’s why it’s extremely important for the coaches and the management to bring the gold home. Otherwise they will be released.” And further: “That is why they start to manipulate many more games before and during the Olympic Games.”
She says all that from Malaga. It seems impossible that she and her husband will ever be able to return to China.
Hao publicly attacked the Chinese government in 2020 – with the support of Ye. He called the Communist Party a “terrorist organization” responsible for “appalling atrocities against humanity.”
Shortly thereafter, he and his wife ended up on the black list, and their sporting successes were erased, so to speak. If you look for their names on the Internet in China, you won’t find any sporting successes, reports “Inside the Games”. According to the couple, friends and family have also turned their backs on them.
“Anything can happen,” Hao told TV 2 Sport. “We can be arrested, arrested or even executed.”