Trial-run leading nowhere

Trial-run leading nowhere

Badminton: Opportunity squandered

Trial-run leading nowhere

 Except on occasions when host stars played, stands at the Gachibowli stadium wore a deserted look. DH PHOTO/ Kishor Kumar Bolar

The World Badminton Championship, at Hyderabad’s Gachibowli stadium, was supposed to be one of the trial-run events (the other one being next year’s hockey World Cup) ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The biggest global badminton meet, along with the hockey Worlds, were meant to showcase India’s readiness, expertise and professionalism in hosting an event as big as the CWG. While it remains to be seen how the newly-formed Hockey India will organise the quadrennial tournament, the Badminton Association of India may just have failed to drive home the point.

The Hyderabad bash was jinxed right from the beginning. The perceived terror threat by Lashkar-e-Taiba forced the nine-member England contingent to pull out of the annual tournament just a day before its start on August 10, dealing the first major blow to the event.

A day after the tournament began, the tournament took another beating when a Malaysian coach was rushed to a local hospital, suspected to have acquired swine flu. Though medical tests later proved negative for the H1N1 virus, it sent the visiting teams scurrying for information.

It is a fact that the whole world is under swine flu siege and some pro-active measures – such as setting up a screening mechanism at the hotel and at the tournament venue for visiting teams – would have been much appreciated.

As if England’s withdrawal and the swine flu scare weren’t enough, the championship suffered another body blow when two Austrian players pulled out citing security reasons. A little bit of transparency from the organisers here would have helped allay the fears among other teams or players.

Damage control mode

The communiqué from the Austrian players about their withdrawal had reached BWF officials on Tuesday (Aug 13) itself. Puzzlingly, its COO Thomas Lund, addressing the media the very next day, had denied any fresh apprehensions from other teams. When the news broke out in the media on Thursday, the organisers were once again in damage control mode, but it was too late.

Lund, however, felt that all these incidents would not have any bearing on India’s credibility as a host. “I don’t think India as a host should be blamed for what individual players or teams decided to do (as regards pull-outs). I don’t think the unfortunate events that have unfolded before or after the meet began should in any way discourage the authorities from awarding India the hosting rights of international tournaments in future,” he noted.

While these were tactical blunders, the overall conduct of the event too has left much to be desired.

The success of any event is gauged by the spectator interest. Barring Friday, when local girl Saina Nehwal and the mixed doubles pair of V Diju and Jwala Gutta were involved in quarterfinal ties, the stands almost wore a deserted look. In fact, there were more media and security personnel strutting around the stadium than the paying public through most of the day. Despite this being the biggest event in badminton and more importantly with the best players in the fray, the poor crowd response in a place which is supposed to have a large number of badminton followers hasn’t been an ideal advertisement to attract more international sporting meets.

BAI president BK Verma pointed out the long distance of the venue from the city as one of the reasons for lack of interest among the public. But then, what stopped the organisers from arranging transport from and to the City? Considering that most of the matches involving the Indians were scheduled late in the evening, such a move would have made perfect sense.

Verma also mentioned confusion about the pricing of tickets as a dampener. But until after the third day of the event, they didn’t feel it necessary to educate the public that they didn’t have to buy only seasonal tickets but daily tickets at an affordable price too were available.

The organisers, who kept reminding mediamen that their support was very important for the success of the tournament, didn’t find it important enough to provide them with even proper seating facilities to do their job. It’s not just the Indian media, there was also a sizeable chunk of foreign media from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, France and Germany. Surely, they are not going sing paeans about the treatment!