OLYMPICS 2008 – The Games from the Chair

Badzine posed 10 questions to one of the BWF-Certified Umpires, Gilles Cavert from France, who was participating in his first Olympic Games. Here is an inside look at how umpires […]
Badzine posed 10 questions to one of the BWF-Certified Umpires, Gilles Cavert from France, who was participating in his first Olympic Games. Here is an inside look at how umpires lived this incredible event.

Badzine International: How did you prepare for this specific event?

Gilles Cavert: Preparation started from the moment I knew I had been selected for 2008 OG in November 2007! I tried to work mainly on three aspects to be ready: technique, mental  and physical one. Therefore, I went to Asia 3 times during the first half of 2008 to see and familiarize myself with the characteristics of Asian venues. I also followed a diet regime from June onwards, and tried to be physically fit playing badminton 3 times a week during the last 2 months.

BZI: What was your first impression of Beijing, of the badminton venue?

GC:  My first impression of Beijing was one of an incredibly huge city. Everything is big there. The venue was well-designed, looked like most of the Asian Super Series venues (Korea, Singapore, etc.) with lots of facilities for players and technical officials…even if I did have some difficulties entering the venue during the first days because of a reluctant accreditation card!!! We experienced electric umpire chairs bringing us up from bottom to the top after we pressed the right button! Strange feeling!

BZI: How many umpires were there, and how were they selected to participate in the Games?

GC:  24 umpires had been selected by BWF for these Games, after receiving a first list from each continental confederation: according to the OG rules, 10 spots were allocated to Europe, 10 to Asia, 2 to America and 2 to Oceania.

BZI: When did you know what match you were going to umpire and on what criteria were you chosen?

GC:  We had the information the previous evening, on which matches we would umpire.  OG are particular in the sense that one umpires very few matches per day (maximum 3 per day), compared to the Super Series, where we are on the Chair much more often.  The choice is made regarding the player’s citizenship, the umpire’s continental origin, the expected difficulty of the match, the experience and knowledge of the umpire….

BZI:  What was your first match like? Which one was it?

GC:  My first match at the was a women’s singles between Wong Chew Mew (MAS) and Kerry Lee Harrington (RSA). I felt a lot of pressure while preparing the match, as we met specific conditions of play (TV, strict timing….). but as soon as I was on court, I could feel like I was at home again.

BZI:  Tell us about the few minutes before the entrance on court. How does it work?

GC:  In Beijing, we met the players as usual at a meeting point located in a corridor close to the players’ lounge. As umpires, we had to be there 20 minutes before the scheduled start of play. At  – 7 minutes we entered a closed room, together with the players and line judges: a very small room where you could feel all the players’ tension. One must not suffer from claustrophobia in this room!  At  – 5 minutes, the door connecting the venue opened and after a few steps, we stopped in front of the person in charge of the TV cue, waiting for the signal to go on court. The same person was also responsible for giving us the signal to begin the match on court.

BZI: What was the "hottest" match you had to umpire?

GC:  The hottest match to umpire was definitely the second round clash in men’s singles between Wong Choon Hann and Hsieh Uh Hsing from Chinese Taipei . Wong won the first game easily. And suddenly Hsieh stated to fight like hell on court, coming unexpectedly back and taking the second game. And the final game: 69 minutes of intense concentration and court management with the players. The bronze medal match in women’s singles between Lu Lan and Yulianti was also exciting. Yulianti also came back from nowhere and was able to cope with the big pressure and support of the home crowd. A 64minute thriller which left Lu Lan exhausted and in tears.

BZI:  Did you feel that there was unfair line judging as many feared there would be?

GC:  No, the line judging during the whole tournament was just excellent. There were very few overrules by the umpires.

BZI: How did the tournament go from an umpire’s point of view?

GC:  It was my first Olympic tournament, so it is quite difficult for me to make any comparisons with previous editions. All I can say is that organization was excellent!  The atmosphere among the umpires was very friendly. I especially liked communicating with my colleagues and friends from Asia!

BZI: What will be your best memories of these games, for badminton and on the whole?

GC:  Best memories in badminton? The hall packed every day, the support of the Chinese every time a local played on court, the tension and pressure inside this crazy room before entering the hall, the incredible win of Lin Dan over Lee Chong Wei

Outside of badminton?  The wonderful dinners we had almost every evening in a small Sichuanese restaurant near the hotel, but most of all, this crazy night in the bird nest when Usain Bolt broke the 100m world record. It was just fabulous to be there, on almost the best seats of the venue, just in front of the track with my fellow umpire friends Hakan Fossto and Niels Holm Mortensen.

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Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.