Uncertainty engulfs BWF India Open as Delhi bans sports events

Delhi Government’s decision to ban all sports activities due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic has raised fresh doubts over the fate of India Open badminton, a crucial event in the Tokyo Olympics qualification cycle.

The $400,000 Super 500 event was supposed to be held without any spectators to avoid spreading the deadly disease.

“We will go by what the Government decides. It is not in our hand. We have to follow the government’s decisions. Currently there is no clarity on the visa process of the foreign players and on top of it now the Delhi Govt has come up with this directive,” a Badminton Association of India said.

The BAI and the Badminton World Federation (BWF) had issued a joint statement on Wednesday, informing that the event will be held inside closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, the Government on Wednesday night issued a revised travel advisory, suspending all existing visas, except diplomatic and employment, till April 15.

The Sports Ministry on Thursday asked all national federations, including the cricket board, to follow the Health Ministry’s advisory and avoid large gatherings in sports events.

Given the circumstances, the BAI has sought clarity from the sports, health and external affairs ministries regarding the visa process of the foreign players. The federation has sent a letter to the respective ministries, attaching the names of the foreign players who were supposed to travel for the India Open.

“We have provided the details of the foreign players who were supposed to come for the India Open. We are waiting for a response,” the official said. “It is a difficult situation for us as well. A decision has to be made at the earliest. Being hosts we have to continue with the preparation.”

The COVID-19 outbreak, which has claimed close to 5,000 lives and infected more than 1.34 lakh people globally, has so far forced the postponement of four Olympic qualifying badminton events – Lingshui China Masters (February 25 to March 1), Vietnam International Challenge (March 24 to 29), German Open (March 3 to 8) and Polish Open (March 26 to 29).

Earlier, the shooting World Cup and the Indian Open golf tournament were postponed in Delhi.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India had deferred the Indian Premier League till April 15.

The concerns are not just limited to the Delhi Government decision to ban all sports events which invoke a gathering of more than 200 people. A majority of the players will be arriving in New Delhi from Switzerland. Since the European nation is among the worst-hit countries, the people arriving in India from Switzerland will mandatorily be quarantined for two weeks.

The Swiss Open will be over on March 22 and the India Open starts two days later. The health directives in wake of novel Coronavirus won’t permit the players coming from Switzerland to go out in public.