Badminton: China denies air-con switch-off in world final

HONG KONG - Chinese organisers have denied switching off the air-cooling system during the world men's singles final after complaints that a sudden change in conditions may have influenced the match's outcome, officials said Thursday.

The stadium air-conditioning "was not turned off at any time during the finals", a Badminton World Federation (BWF) statement said, contradicting witness reports that the cooler went off during Sunday's men's world championships title match and came back on afterwards.

An AFP reporter said the air-conditioner, which had been bothering players on one side of the net by blowing their shuttlecocks off-course, went off at the start of the second game, when China's Lin Dan switched to the drafty end when trailing 1-0 down.

Lin, the defending champion, won the second game and as temperatures soared his opponent, Malaysia's world number one Lee Chong Wei, broke down with cramp in the decider and was stretchered off when facing match point.

"A defeat is a defeat. I can accept it but I cannot tolerate the organisers switching off the air conditioner in the second game," Lee's coach Tey Seu Bock told Malaysian newspaper The Star earlier this week.

"It was so hot inside and Chong Wei was dehydrated. This led to him suffering cramps."

The BWF pledged to investigate the incident. However, a statement sent to AFP on Thursday said the air conditioning at Guangzhou's Tianhe Gymnasium was not turned off, but was simply set too low.

"The local organising committee has confirmed to the BWF that the air conditioner in the venue was not turned off at any time during the finals, but that the air conditioner was set on low from the beginning of the day," the statement said.

"However, due to the increase in the number of spectators attending on finals day - and in particular during the men's singles match - the temperature went up and the venue became hotter."

The BWF acknowledged there had been "a number of questions and comments" about the air conditioning following Sunday's final.

Badminton was rocked at last year's Olympics when eight women's doubles players were disqualified for deliberately trying to lose group matches, in the hope of gaining an easier quarter-final draw.

And in recent weeks, two Thai players received lengthy bans for an on-court brawl during a men's doubles final in Canada.