THE fans came back so thick and fast at the recently concluded Malaysian Open that it even caught local badminton officials by surprise.
Badminton Association Malaysia (BAM) secretary P. Ganga Rao found himself stranded outside the Kuala Lumpur Badminton last Friday when the shutters had to be pulled down to stop spectators from swamping the already packed 5,000 capacity venue.
“The huge crowd really caught us by surprise. But I don’t mind getting locked out if we can get this sort of crowd all the time,” Ganga joked.
“This is a pleasant problem to deal with compared to holding an event in an empty stadium.
“However, in the future, we must try and find better ways to manage the crowd.”
Former international umpire Johnny Quek said he had not seen such crowds at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium for a long time.
“Even when we had the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games badminton competition at this venue, we didn’t have this sort of crowd,” said Quek, who received the Meritorious Service Award from International Badminton Federation (IBF) in 2001.
“The atmosphere inside the stadium for the Malaysian Open was just fantastic.”
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor turned up for the final and were not disappointed.
Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, trailing 7-0 in the deciding game, staged a stirring comeback to beat China’s world number one Lin Dan 17-15, 9-15, 15-9 and defend his title.
High performance sports motivator Datuk Lawrence Chan put it apty.
“Recent events show that our players have an important role to perform in helping to develop the game. The fans want a hero to look up to,” Chan pointed out.
“No one likes to be associated with losers.”
Badminton fan Abdullah Zainal Abidin, who came with 10 other friends to watch the quarter-final matches last Friday, said: “We want to come and watch the matches and support our national players.
“The singles match-ups – Lee Chong Wei against Taufik Hidayat and Hafiz Hashim against Peter-Gade Christensen – were just too good to be missed.”