Sudirman Cup 2011 kicks off in style… and music

The 2011 edition of the world mixed team badminton championship kicked off last night in Qingdao, China, with a 2-hour-long opening ceremony and a classy welcome dinner given for all […]

The 2011 edition of the world mixed team badminton championship kicked off last night in Qingdao, China, with a 2-hour-long opening ceremony and a classy welcome dinner given for all participants. All is now set for the show to start on court as well.

Raphael Sachetat, live in Qingdao. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

What do Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei and Peter Gade have in common? They were the surprise guests in the chorus of the welcoming song performed by Li Yongbo at the opening ceremony of the Double Star BWF 2011 . Gade looked comfortable following the rhythm – if not the words in Chinese – while Chong Wei and Lin Dan were holding the lyrics sheets in their hands to follow their chorus mates, Cai Yun, Fu Haifeng and Bao Chunlai, who obviously knew their coach’s lyrics by heart.

This came as one of the last surprises of the welcoming dinner held in the Shangri-La Hotel, downtown Qingdao, the capital of Chinese beer and former host of the Sailing Competition of the Beijing Olympic Games. References to yachting and sailing were made all evening, together with images of previous wins by the local team. The Chinese players – dressed in elegant red suits for those competing and matching yellow track suits for those who will be watching from the bench – looked as sharp as ever.

As with all big badminton events held in China, the set up has been prepared with amazing care, hundreds of smiling volunteers wearing suits similar to the one of the Olympics are ready to welcome  – or sometimes “babysit” – players, officials and media.

The last details were discussed in the main hall, the VIP chairs set in a perfect line up, the last pieces of blue fabric covering everything that needs to be hidden. Line judges came in to practice their ways in and out, while all teams were given a 45 minute session in the main hall to get adjusted to the playing conditions. Only China, as hosts, benefited with a full 2 hours each day to get used to “their” hall as they will be now feeling at home for more than one reason.

All players have arrived. Some players initially on the lists did not travel to Qingdao, but no major withdrawals in the top teams apart from Taufik, Liliyana Natsir for Indonesia. The French team – competing in the 2nd division – arrived with no bags – only their rackets and National track suits as their luggage were lost under way – agood excuse to go shopping for the fashionable French. All other teams are in good order even if some of the top players on second division nations have not sent their best shuttlers – maybe an indirect circumstance of the rule which stipulates that even if a team tops its group, it will not be assured of going up into the next group for the following edition: unlike previous years, the groups are and will be made up only according to world ranking averages and no more with former Sudirman Cup results. A “fair” way to have the best teams in best groups, but also to kill a competition instinct and potential euphoria for major upsets in all but group 1.

Lee Chong Wei and Wang Xin awarded the “2010 player of the year “ trophy

Before the competition kicked off, the BWF awarded its “player of the year award” to both Lee Chong Wei and Wang Xin, for their outstanding season last year. Lee Chong Wei remained untroubled at the world #1 rank, securing his first Yonex All England title and ending the season on yet another Super Series Final’s Gold medal. Wang Xin, on her end, made the best comeback of the Chinese team, having been left on the side of the National team for almost 5 years because of a back injury, before making an amazing come back in internal trials first, then on the world stage where she clinched the first event of the year in 2010 – the Malaysia Open – and securing her spot in the top 3 best shuttlers of the world.

Eyes are now turned towards the future – next Sunday, with a fourth consecutive title in sight for China: their eight all together – a lucky number for the local. The atmosphere of the Chinese squad during the practice sessions told long about their determination but also about their quite relaxed way of preparing an event they’re hot favourite to win again, two years after their success in Guangzhou.

The Malaysians are hoping for an upset to make it to the finals for the first time ever, while Indonesians, without their brightest stars, hope to limit the damages and offer good experience to the youngsters. Denmark and Korea look as China’s strongest opponents. The Danes, at practice were focused and confident that this could be “their year” even if they were aware that England (photo) could pose a first threat with their former player Kenneth Jonassen in charge of the England squad. Tine Baun mentioned she was happy to be back on track after a stomach problem had avoided her come back earlier this month. As for Gade, he proved that he was ready for a nice swan song in this competition.

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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.