I still haven’t seen anyone write it out, but this is the best I could piece together from this great badminton site.
So, there were 16 pairs of women in the doubles tournament. The top 4 were seeded. Two pairs were from China, and they were the number 1 and 2 seeds.
Those 16 pairs get broken down into 4 groups of 4. Within those groups, each pair plays every other one in a round robin. The two best pairs from each group move on to the elimination round.
The Chinese were put in Groups A and D. The elimination round was set up so that the best pairs from groups A and B, and second-best pairs from groups C and D would meet in the top half of the bracket in the quarterfinals.
Then the # 2 seed was upset in the round robin in Group D. They would still make the elimination round. But, they would no longer be the best entrant from Group D (in the bottom half of the quarterfinals) but the second-best entrant from Group D (in the top half of the quarterfinals).
This would mean that if the #1 seed, from China, ended up as the top entrant from Group A, that the two Chinese pairs would meet in the semi-finals, with one of them getting no better than a bronze and possibly 4th place with no medal at all.
So, the Chinese were looking at 1) gold and bronze or 2) gold only instead of 3) gold and silver.
In response, the # 1 seeded Chinese pair threw points in a match in the round-robin so that they would get into the opposite half of the bracket from the other Chinese pair, where they expected to be before the upset.
But, when that pair started to throw points, their opponents did too. This is because if both Chinese pairs ended up in the top half of the bracket, the bottom half would be weaker, and if they lost, they’d get into it.
But, as soon as the top 2 entrants from Group A start to goof around, then it makes sense for the top 2 entrants from Group C (who’ll have to play them first in the elimination round) start to goof around too.
In the end, 4 pairs tried to be on the losing end of 2 matches to get out of the unexpectedly strong top half of the elimination bracket.
The final result: the # 2 seeds that were upset ran the table and won the gold. The # 1 and # 3 seed were disqualified, and the # 4 seed won the silver.
And the lucky bronze medal winner? This is a Russian pair that was initially eliminated after the round-robin. But, after the disqualifications they got matched up against the worst member of Group C, whom they beat. Then they lost in the semi-finals to the ultimate gold medal pair. And who did they have to face in the consolation round: the worst pair from Group A. That Canadian pair only made it because of the disqualification, and was the only pair that the Russians beat in the round-robin.
So, not only did the disqualifications mar the tournament, the poor design of the bracket gave the Russian pair a cakewalk. They lost to the # 1, # 2, and # 3 seeds, and then beat the worst entrant in Group C, and twice beat the worst entrant in Group A, and won the bronze. Talk about dumb luck.