Badminton Association of India is continuing with its preparations to host the India Open BWF Super 500 Series in New Delhi from March 24 to 29 despite growing uncertainties due to the global spread of the novel Coronavirus epidemic.
“BAI is monitoring the situation. This is not just another season of the India Open series. This will be the last BWF event to determine the rankings for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. No decision can be taken in haste. As far as the BAI is concerned we are working to host the event as if there is no threat to this,” BAI Secretary Omar Rashid told InsideSport.co. “Having said it, nothing remains more important than human lives. We are in touch with the concerned Ministries and the BWF. The tournament as of now is on; but uncertainties are growing.”
The BAI though has got mandatory permissions from the Ministries of Sports, Home Affairs and External affair, but travel advisories are in place for people with nationalities of severely affected countries or people coming from the affected countries.
“Travel restrictions on players from countries like China, South Korea or Japan is a State matter. The BAI has no say in that. We will share the Government directives with the BWF. If they (the BWF) think we should host the tournament for the players from the countries which have no travel restrictions, we will go ahead with the Indian Open with those many players. If BWF thinks to cancel or postpone it, we have no option,” Rashid said.
A travel advisory by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has made it mandatory that travellers coming in India from the Republic of Korea, Iran and Italy or who have visited any of these countries since February 14 should be quarantined for two weeks on arrival.
There are also restrictions on travellers from countries like Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Nepal. The people coming from or carrying passports of these countries are universally being screened at the airports as a precautionary measure. India has already suspended e-visas of Chinese nationals.
The prevailing scenario raises questions about the Japanese, South Korean and Chinese teams’ participation in the India Open. “I don’t think there should be much problem with the Chinese players. They have been playing away from China for so long now. The team is currently training in England and will be coming to India directly after the All England Championships. But if there is a policy matter, BAI cannot help,” said Rashid.
World No. 1 Chen Yufei, Lin-Dan and He Bingji will be the major attraction for the India Open if the 60-strong Chinese contingent is cleared to participate. “This being the Olympic year, we were expecting one of the best line-ups for India Open. We are not sure which way it (the India Open field) will be heading now. For us hosting the tournament is important. But people’s health and Government directives are definitely more important,” added BAI Events Secretary.
Meanwhile, BAI secretary Ajay Singhania has confirmed to national daily Times of India that the Chinese national team has applied for visas at the Indian High Commission in the UK. “The (Chinese) team has been training in Europe for long and hadn’t travelled to China since the outbreak of the virus. Chinese players have also undergone 14 days of quarantine in Europe,” Singhania told the daily.
“There have been cases where other nations’ Governments didn’t allow China to compete, at all. In our case, the MEA has sought information related to how long have these Chinese shuttlers been training abroad, their complete medical check-up history and other things. It’s up to the Indian Government to clear them for the event. If the Government doesn’t allow them to come to India, we’ll convey the same to the BWF. We have to follow regulations,” he said.
BAI also has concerns that squads from South Korea, Italy, China and Hong Kong wouldn’t be able to spend 14 days in quarantine. For that the athletes will have to arrive in India before March 10 to be available for the championship on March 24. The All England Open, if gone as per plan, will take place from March 11 to 15.
At least four BWF events – German Open, Vietnam International Challenge, the China Masters and the Polish Open – have already been cancelled or postponed, while there also remain doubts about the All England Open Championships.
Close to 85,000 people have been affected by the deadly Coronavirus and the death is about to reach 3,000.