BADMINTON is finally emerging from a pandemic that was “threatening the sport”, world federation chief Thomas Lund said, but China’s zero-Covid policy means it may face further damaging disruption.
Badminton World Federation (BWF) secretary general Lund said the coronavirus pandemic made 2020 and 2021 “a disaster” for the game, forcing tournament cancellations worldwide.
The situation is gradually returning to normal and in June, the BWF announced an expanded calendar for the next four years that adds four more tournaments in Japan, Germany, Canada and Finland to make it 31 in their world tour.
But Lund also warned that three events scheduled for the end of this year in China, as well as one each in Hong Kong and Macau, could be moved if Covid restrictions make them unworkable.
China is traditionally the pre-eminent force in badminton and a vast, lucrative market crucial to the sport.
But most international sports in China have been cancelled in recent years because of the country’s strict zero-Covid strategy.
“No doubt about it, that’s under heavy review at the moment,” said the Dane, who added that they would have to find a different destination for some of those tournaments if China decline hosting again.
Lund said badminton will not turn its back on China because of Covid and wants the sport to “start growing there again”.
Meanwhile, on the addition of extra tournaments which has fuelled accusations that players are being pushed too hard and risking injuries, Lund brushed it aside as a non-issue.
Lund believes players and coaches need to “learn how to play the calendar” by picking and choosing events, and says badminton wants to be “a sport creating legends” such as fellow Dane and world number one Viktor Axelsen.
Lund says it is also important to look after those further down the pecking order, citing the support for Ukrainian players since Russia’s invasion of their country.
In line with other sports, Russian players were subsequently banned from all international badminton tournaments and Lund says that is not about to change.
“I don’t think anybody can disagree that this war wasn’t started by Russian badminton players,” he said.
“That’s not what we’re claiming at all, but we are following the advice that we’ve discussed with our sports colleagues around the world.” — AFP