Wrestling gives badminton a safety net
Updated: 2013-03-26 08:02
By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)
Even after match-fixing debacle in London, shuttlers kept their place in 2020 Games
Don't worry - badminton's not going anywhere.
An official from the world governing body said last week he doesn't believe the sport is in any danger of being dropped from the Olympic Games.
When wrestling was unexpectedly dropped from the 2020 Olympics by the International Olympic Committee last month, it helped secure a place for badminton, which was also on the list of sports with the potential to be eliminated.
Still, the match-throwing scandal that occurred during China's sweep at the London Games could damage the sport's international appeal and its Olympic prospects in the long run.
Officials with the Badminton World Federation remain upbeat.
"We are very satisfied with how the game was presented at the London Games last year," BWF Secretary General Thomas Lund said at the launch of the 2013 Red Bull national amateur tournament in Beijing on Friday.
Lund said the IOC evaluated each of the 26 events at the London Games in terms of worldwide popularity, TV audience and grass-roots promotion.
Badminton ranked highly enough that it's not in danger.
"We haven't received that analysis about badminton (from the London Games), but I can tell you we have done very well," said Lund, a former doubles specialist from Denmark.
"How that fits in with other sports is difficult to tell, but we had nearly 99 percent of all tickets sold and we had the best television coverage around the world ever. That was an extremely good result."
The game's image took a massive hit in London with the scandal that saw eight women's doubles players from Korea, Indonesia and China disqualified for intentionally throwing matches in order to earn easier draws in the knockout stage.
Meanwhile, the supremacy of Asian countries like China, Malaysia and Indonesia caused some concern that the rest of the world will lose interest.
Lund doesn't seem worried.
"Many other countries around the world are really trying to keep up with the Chinese and other players in Asia," he said. "There are a lot of developments in different countries that show many players are slowly catching up. It's a very positive scene."
Since the sport's Olympic debut in 1992, Asia has claimed 28 of 29 gold medals, only allowing Danish singles player Poul Larsen a men's gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Only four non-Asian countries have won gold at the BWF World Championships, combining for 16 titles, while the Asians have totaled 81.
The event's prestigious tournaments, like the Thomas and Uber Cup and the Sudirman Cup, are consistently held in Asia because they draw better attendance, sponsorships and TV ratings here.
To stay competitive, some European countries have naturalized retired Asian players rather than cultivating their own.
Not everyone is as optimistic as Lund.
Paisan Rangsikitpho, deputy president of the BWF, admitted during last year's Thomas and Uber Cup that the governing body worries the game's imbalanced development will hamper other countries' enthusiasm.
"We do worry ... we like it to be won by different countries," he said.
Taufik Hidayat, an Olympic champion from Indonesia, said in January that the juniors training with his club might never get the chance to play in the Games if the BWF couldn't find a way to promote the sport globally.
A five-year plan begun last year that features school projects was expected to boost the game's international appeal, Lund said.
"Everybody goes to schools, and the ambition for badminton is to be one of the world's biggest school sports," he said. "So we are spreading badminton in schools to every country in the world."
The BWF will team with its 173 members to provide training facilities and lessons to schools worldwide, increase prize money and improve TV broadcasting.
No wild card for Lin Dan to play in World Championships
The BWF won't offer a wild card to Chinese superstar Lin Dan at the Guangzhou World Championships in August if the London gold medalist fails to qualify for the tournament.
Lin, a four-time men's singles world champion, hasn't played since the London Games, allowing himself a six-month rest. With his current world ranking of No 41, Lin won't qualify for the Worlds because China already has three top-eight players filling its three entries.
Lund said the BWF won't adjust the rules in Lin's favor.
"We don't have special rules to cater for a six-month leave," he said. "It's difficult to make rules for everything. We should be very careful for making rules for a single incident. (If he doesn't rank high enough), that's the rule of the game, I can't change that."
(China Daily 03/26/2013 page24)