Watch your bags, boys


Staying sharp: Aaron Chia (left) and Soh Wooi Yik at a training session at the Academy Badminton Malaysia on Thursday. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: National shuttler Aaron Chia does not fear his Olympic Games opponents on court, but he will be wary of potential troubles in the streets of Paris next month.

Aaron and Co are concerned about their safety in the French capital during the Games from July 26-Aug 11.

Renowned for its cultural heritage and iconic landmarks, Paris unfortunately has also drawn attention for theft, and athletes are not exempt from becoming victims.

At the French Open in March, the Taiwanese badminton team became victims to theft as their luggage were stolen and their hotel rooms were forcefully opened at night.

Taiwan’s coach Chen Hung-ling reported that his personal luggage was stolen during the shuttle bus transfer between the airport and the hotel, estimating a loss of around RM7,000, including a laptop containing important research and competition information.

And with million visitors expected to throng their way to the City of Love, Aaron says it is better to be safe than sorry.

An independent study by the Centre de droit et d’economie du sport (CDES) of the University of Limoges last month revealed that between 2.3 and 3.1 million unique visitors with Olympic tickets are expected to visit Paris during the Games.

“Surely there will be a lot of tourists and it will be very busy during the Olympics,” said Aaron, who forms the country’s No. 1 men’s doubles partnership with Soh Wooi Yik.

“When we were there last in March for the French Open, there were cases of burglary and snatch thefts. Even athletes had their belongings stolen.

“We just have to be extra careful and vigilant when we go there next month. But the venue should have no issues,” said the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist.

Aaron and Wooi Yik are eyeing the elusive gold medal at the Porte de la Chapelle Arena, the newly constructed venue that was tested during the French Open.

Aaron added that it would be an entirely different environment as they head to their second Olympics compared to Tokyo.

“The Tokyo Olympics was during the Covid-19 pandemic, and things are going to be very different this time in Paris,” he said.

“We just have to be prepared for all types of situations in any environment but we will be ready to face anyone,” he said.

In a competitive men’s doubles, world No. 5 Aaron-Wooi Yik have to be on their toes from the get go.

They will likely avoid four top seeded players like Liang Weikeng-Wang Chang of China (No. 1), Kang Min-hyuk-Seo Seung-jae of South Korea (No. 2), Satwiksairaj Rankireddy of India (No. 3) and Kim Astrup-Anders Skaarup of Denmark (No. 4) in the early rounds but even the non-seeded pairs can make life difficult for them.

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