Portugal event cancelled, Korean media reports All England worries

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced the cancellation of yet another international tournament, while the Korean media reports concerns that the Korean team will be able to participate in next […]

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced the of yet another international tournament, while the Korean media reports concerns that the Korean team will be able to participate in next week’s .

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Late on Monday, March 2nd, the BWF issued a statement announcing the cancellation of a 4th international badminton event in the past week.  The Portugal , which was scheduled for March 5th to 8th, is the 5th event to be removed from the Olympic qualifying period because of concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus known as .  The first cancellation was the Lingshui China Masters Super 100 – which was announced on February 1st – followed last week by the Hanoi International Challenge and the German and Polish Opens.

Meanwhile, worries abound in the Korean media that the Korean badminton team will be prevented from competing in the All England next week.  According to the latest updates from the Korean embassy in London and Public Health England, only people arriving from Korea who have visited Daegu or Cheongdo since February 19th or who are exhibiting symptoms.  However, concerns abound after it was reported that football star Son Heung Min would be under a two-week quarantine when he returns to England following surgery in Seoul.  England’s Daily Mail described Son as being “forced into a period of isolation, in line with Home Office guidelines”, despite acknowledging that his treatment had been 150 miles from the only two Korean regions that Public Health England considers “Category 1 areas”, necessitating self-quarantining.

Korea has seen the largest of Covid-19 outside of China, with 4,812 cases as of midnight last night.  Korean health authorities have conducted over 121,000 tests for the virus.  All but 20 of the 600 new cases confirmed yesterday were in Daegu or the surrounding province.  Although English authorities only placed Wuhan and Hubei Province in their “Category 1”, the Chinese team travelled to England earlier this month to prevent quarantine requirements from interfering with their All England participation.

The Joongang Daily quoted one Badminton Korea Association official as saying that the coaching staff was in continual communication with All England organizers and that they expected a decision by March 5th at the latest on whether the Korean team would be able to compete in Birmingham.  Another paper reported that the team had been tested late last month and the results came back negative.

The All England is a major contributor of points toward Olympic qualification.  While most players from Korea and China are either relatively safe in their qualification hopes or total long-shots, former world #1s Son Wan Ho and Lin Dan (pictured above) have realistic hopes of catching compatriots that can be realized only if they get the opportunity to perform well in the upcoming big tournaments.  The only place either team can add to their prospective Olympic contingents is in men’s doubles, where Han Chengkai and Zhou Haodong (pictured left) are trying to make up a 9,000-point deficit that is keeping them out of the top 8 in the world.

The Portugal International Series had far fewer Olympic hopefuls.  Women’s singles top seed Thet Htar Thuzar (pictured top) of Myanmar is safely qualified for Tokyo but others such as Eetu Heino of Finland, Sri Lanka’s Niluka Karunaratne, Wiktoria Dabczynska of Poland, and Australia’s Simon Leung with both his partners could all have benefitted from the up to 2500 points that a win in Portugal would have yielded.

Cancellation is not the only possible effect on the upcoming badminton events, of course.  Last week, the organizers announced that strict regulations for spectators could also be implemented.  The Super 300 event, scheduled to be held in Basel starting March 17th, currently falls outside the temporary restrictions currently imposed by Switzerland’s Federal Council on large-scale events involving 1000 persons or more, but the event website warns that the event will be complying “strictly according to the guidelines of the Swiss Confederation and the cantonal doctor”.  A similar wait-and-see message is on the All England website.  Neither statement has been updated since late last week.

Of course, the All England would not be the first event to go ahead with some players being forced to withdraw because of travel restrictions.  A full ban on all travellers from China and Hong Kong blocked those 4 teams from competing in the Badminton Asia Team Championships last month.  So far, the upcoming tournaments in places with partial travel restrictions – India, Malaysia, Singapore, and England – do not appear on paper to affect the badminton teams from China or Korea due to the regional specifics.  These conditions may yet change, however, and if Asia’s individual championships move to Manila, as has been hinted recently in the New Straits Times, travel rules in the Philippines will once again come into play.

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net