On-off Malaysian Open could be shut off again

KUALA LUMPUR: The fate of the Malaysian Open, the country’s flagship badminton tournament and one of the oldest in region, is up in the air again.

Just over a month after the reinstatement of the Open was announced, Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria (pic) has hinted that the US$750,000 (RM3.21mil) meet, to be held at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil from Nov 24-29, could be called off.

The tournament, which now again faces the prospect of being cancelled for the first time since its revival in 1983, was originally scheduled March 31-April 5 meet but was suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But like many other postponed World Tour events, the Malaysian Open had found new dates after Badminton World Federation (BWF) bunched them together into the last four months of its revamped calendar.

The announcement of the Open’s return was made on May 22, much to the joy of Malaysian shuttlers.

However, with the uncertainties as the pandemic is showing no signs of disappearing anytime soon, BAM are pondering whether or not to proceed with staging the tournament.

“It just doesn’t look viable at the moment, ” said Norza.

“Firstly, the tournament could turn out to be a lacklustre event because it does not offer qualifying points for the Olympics... some of the top players may opt to skip it.

“Secondly, BAM will incur plenty of additional costs in organising it, including a big-scale sanitisation of the venue and providing screening equipment such as the thermal scanners, just to name a few.

“Social distancing will continue to be practised, so that means the number of spectators would be limited. If we are to play with limited or no crowd at all, it’s going to hit us hard financially.

“With less revenue and increased cost, it’s just not viable.”

Norza said BAM were unwilling to dig deep into their financial reserves just to stage one tournament.

The money, he said, would be better off being utilised to fund the national team for stints abroad.

“We would rather use the money to send our players to overseas tournaments, especially our back-up and junior players who are in need of exposure, ” said Norza.

“We intend to send these players to 12-15 tournaments in a year. That’s a lot of expenses but it will be money well-spent because it contributes to the development of our players.

“If we spend a big sum on one tournament that gives us nothing but headache and losses, then it’s not worth it, ” he said.

The Malaysian Open had its inception in 1937 and was held every year until World War II halted it between 1942 and 1946.

It was restarted in 1947 and continued until the race riots of 1969 again forced its cancellation. It was revived in 1983 and has been held annually since. Until now.

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