Australian Open 2012 Launch – Goodbye Melbourne, G’Day Sydney

Our preview specialist, Aaron Wong, attended a rare triple occasion (in order of importance): the launch of an international badminton tournament; in Sydney, where he lives; and, on the only […]

Our specialist, Aaron Wong, attended a rare triple occasion (in order of importance): the launch of an international badminton tournament; in Sydney, where he lives; and, on the only non-rainy morning weekday that week.

Story and photos: Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Sydney

What’s a launch? / Why the big deal?

I was informing him I was going.  “What’s a launch?” inhaled my editor, who time and again gets to go to gigs like the Super Series Finals and the richest tournament around, the million dollar Korea Open, and those events lack a launch.

Certainly, we both understand the definition of the word and can imagine a variation on a press conference but here’s an instance in English where we don’t say what we mean.  Who?, When?, Where?, and most of all Why??, were implied by that What…? Because, really, a badminton tournament launch is positively out of the ordinary.

I rocked up to The Rocks – as the edge of the CBD sandwiched between the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House is known – to find out what the big deal was.  What I found was a proper makeshift court and confirmation that the Australian Badminton Open was leaving it’s epicentre, the state of Victoria, and transferring to Sydney for at least a couple of years.

Further evidence that this has been a thoroughly welcome development was the presence of the deputy premier of the state of New South Wales (NSW), Andrew Stoner, and much more surprisingly the deputy head of the Badminton World Federation (BWF), Paisan Rangsikitpho (pictured below).

Overtures in front of the Sydney Opera House

Framed against the ever spectacular Opera House as he stood on the podium, Mr. Rangsikitpho made overtures to Sydney, Australia, proclaiming this city “the best place in the world for a tournament” and it was hard to argue otherwise on a summer’s morning surrounded by sparkling gentle waves and the odd ferry gliding unhurriedly across them.  Flattering as he was, he could not possibly have come to the ends of the earth just to say that.

Then, with personal enthusiasm and switching off from his prepared speech, he revealed that he would lend his support to hosting a Surdirman Cup or World Championships in this very city, not only for it’s attractiveness but for it’s proven capability to stage the biggest sporting event of them all, the Olympics.  He bemoaned that Sydney was “asleep for twelve years” and off the international badminton radar but that was about to change.

This wasn’t just any ol’ Grand Prix Gold tournament.  It was to mark a medium term handshake with the NSW government as major financial sponsors, and a longer term dream by the BWF.

The extroverted and tireless tournament organiser, Mr Loke Poh Wong, leaned in to gesture to me, ‘We were this close to (clinching) a Sudirman Cup.’

Baffled locals had been wondering why the event would not be held at the Olympic Park facilities.  Instead it will be at Darling Harbour in the heart of downtown and it is evident now that this decision is to showcase the city in all it’s glorious natural splendour.

What a profound pity and wasted marketing opportunity that Yonex tennis stars, former world top ranked singles specialist, Lleyton Hewitt and up-and-comer Bernard Tomic were not available for an appearance as initially planned what with the Grand Slam fanfare finishing up a few days earlier.  Seriously, for badminton to grow in Australia and help the city to shine as a tourist destination, it needs to appeal to greater than the badminton community and government investment and seek to be embraced by the general public at large in the same way that thousands flock to Melbourne to watch the tennis as an enjoyable holiday or long weekend away.  The as-yet untapped potential is there as Australians are a multi-sports obsessed nation.

Yet to be revealed, but we can guess

No badminton stars were namedropped as to who’s coming since the entry period remains open.  But being among the last major tournaments to yield precious qualification points so close to Olympic qualification, as well as once again offering the rich Grand Prix Gold-standard prize money that keeps it top in Oceania badminton history, there is incentive enough for a good number of big names to visit Downunder.  In the Melbourne edition last year,  women’s singles World Champion Wang Lin of China and former men’s world number 1 Wong Choong Hann of Malaysia provided some of the thrills but failed to lift the silverware.

With five and a half of the current top ten men’s doubles pairs having been world number 1, and seven pairs from the same bunch having won Super Series before, the men’s doubles category at the is looking like it could be a heavyweight highlight.  Two of these from the near north are also still struggling toward a top 8 spot that can qualify them for the London Olympics.

There is a high probability one of the four Heavenly Kings of badminton would play this tournament because his ranking has slipped ten rungs when eleven months ago it was world number 2, and also he resides in the neighbouring country of Indonesia.  This would give Australians a chance to witness the pure talent of Taufik Hidayat, World and Olympic champion, before his imminent retirement.  The last time Hidayat competed here he was nineteen years old and world number 1 and I got his autograph.  Perhaps, another Australian youngster could be inspired to go far in this the fastest of racquet sports.  (With the preview specialist job already taken, they should inspire a champion this time around.)

Badzine looks forward to bringing you coverage of the Yonex Australian Open Grand Prix Gold, which runs during the week of Easter, from 3-8 April 2012, at the Darling Harbour Convention Centre.  Tickets on sale now from the Ticketek website.  Volunteering positions are still available including a limited number of line judging positions too.  Contact Badminton NSW for more information.

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @