Coronavirus threat: Uncertainty looms over All England Open Badminton

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Uncertainty is growing over the All England Open Badminton Championship even as governing body for the sport in England has iterated that the prestigious tournament is on as per schedule.

Badminton England while reassuring the players, officials and volunteers about the potential impact of Coronavirus on the All England Open Badminton Championships has also hinted about looming uncertainties.

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“We are speaking to Public Health England on a regular basis and also taking their advice to monitor the daily information posted to their website. We are also in regular dialogue with the Badminton World Federation and Arena Birmingham (the championships venue),” says a Badminton England note.

Another statement in the communique further raises doubts that the confirmation of the Championships going on as per schedule is not yet conclusive and final.

The statement, “the health and wellbeing of those joining us for the Championships in Birmingham is our primary concern. Any further updates will be posted to the All England Open Badminton Championships website and the Badminton England website, in addition to our social media channels” asserts the fact that an adverse development is not fully ruled out.

More than 2,850 people are killed across the world and over 83,650 are infected by the deadly novel Coronavirus. There are travel advisories about the people flying in or out from the extremely infected China, South Korea and Japan – the three powerhouses of badminton. Various other nations have advised their administration against permitting their athletes for international competitions.

Since the Chinese shuttlers are already in Britain, there is no threat to their participation in the All England Open if the event goes ahead as scheduled.

The epidemic has already led to the cancellation of four major badminton events – German Open, Vietnam International Challenge, the China Masters and the Polish Open. The terminations come as a big blow for the shuttlers eyeing vital points to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The BWF German Open will not go ahead next week and the Polish Open has been postponed. According to the BWF there is no confirmation whether the German Open will be rescheduled or cancelled entirely.

“The BWF is continuing to monitor all official updates on COVID-19 with no change to the intention to stage other HSBC BWF World Tour or BWF-sanctioned tournaments,” said a statement.

This week the Vietnam International Challenge, which also carried rankings points for the Olympics, was shifted from late March to early June.

The loss of qualifying tournaments will pose a problem for many players including two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan, who needs a rapid rise up the rankings to win a place on the Chinese team.

The BWF World Ranking points as of April 28 will be used to allocate 34 individuals for singles and 16 pairs for doubles quota places per gender to the highest-ranked athletes.

Nations can enter a maximum of two players each in the men’s and women’s singles, if both are ranked in the world’s top 16 by the cutoff date; otherwise, one quota place until the roster of 34 players has been completed.

The postponements and cancellations are also affecting India’s Olympic prospects.  In men’s singles, B Sai Praneeth and Kidambi Srikanth are in contention for qualification, while PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal vie for spots in the women’s singles draw. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are in good position to qualify for the men’s doubles. The event’s postponement reduces the number of opportunities players have to make the cut for Tokyo.

After the All England Open, the Swiss Open and the India Open and two successive tournaments in Malaysia and Singapore are scheduled for March. Given the two nations’ proximity to China and the fact that Malaysia has 22 confirmed coronavirus cases and Singapore has 91 already, there remains grave concerns about these events too.

Meanwhile,  the Polish Open International Challenge in Krakow, which has been deferred from its original schedule of March 26 to 29, will also no longer fall within the Olympic qualification period.

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