September 26, 2020

Is Denmark safe for badminton?

5 min read

Thailand with at least nine players, including ace Ratchanok Intanon, refusing to play at the Thomas-Uber Cup Finals in Denmark adds to the growing number of players concerned about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even powerhouses China are yet to get the go-ahead from their government to participate in the prestigious tournament. Taiwan has indicated it was withdrawing from the Finals while India will play with depleted sides.

Malaysia’s Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong had also declined to be selected for the Finals much earlier.

Did the Badminton World Federation (BWF) make a hasty decision to convene the tournament?  The Finals is scheduled to be held in Aarhus, Denmark from Oct 3-11.

Yesterday alone there were 147 new cases in Denmark as compared to Malaysia which only reported a mere six new cases. Yet there is a travel restriction still in place in Malaysia while we are expected to believe that Denmark is safer.

That the number of new cases in Malaysia spiked to 62 today is just another indication of the unpredictability of the coronavirus.

The European nation with a population of just over 5 million has already recorded more than 620 deaths and with double the number of those who had been infected compared to Malaysia. But more concerning is their recent spike in Covid-19 cases in Denmark. Their daily new cases over the last few days has been the highest since August 11. Only twice, since May 8, has their daily number of cases been as high. The figure of 179 from last Thursday was the highest daily tally since April 22nd.

In just the last four days, their number of new cases stands in excess of 680, more than the entire month’s new infections in Malaysia.

In early August Denmark’s top epidemiologist Kare Molbak has said he would not recommend easing lockdown further as COVID-19 spikes continued. He had to backtrack from his previous claim in May that there would be no second wave of the virus in Denmark.

Singapore has far less new infections and we are still not completely ready to let in our own citizens return home but somehow, the authorities believe Denmark is a much safer country.

The BWF are also said to have even offered Indonesia to host a couple of tournaments in the midst of the pandemic that is seeing an average of 3,000 new daily cases over the past one week in Indonesia. The situation may improve by November, but it does not give any confidence on the decision making process.

Was the decision to restart the badminton calendar done for sporting reasons or other inherent reasons including financial loss for the BWF?

Despite the protocols in place to ensure that there would be no infections during the tournament, this is not a given.

The ongoing US Open tennis championships was allowed to continue despite the countries extremely poor control of the pandemic. Unsatisfied with the assurances from the organisers, many top players opted out from playing.

The top-seeded women’s doubles team was dropped from the U.S. Open because one of the players, Kristina Mladenovic of France, was issued a quarantine notice by public health officials from the county where her tournament hotel is.

Mladenovic was one of seven players placed under extra restrictions during the tournament after contact tracing determined she potentially could have been exposed to COVID-19 by Benoit Paire, the only entrant to test positive.

Mladenovic had been allowed to compete until Saturday, playing two matches in singles — she lost in the second round after blowing a 6-1, 5-1 lead — and winning one in doubles.

And the other half-dozen players found to have contact with Paire also played in the tournament, including No. 32 seed Adrian Mannarino in men’s singles, whose match Friday was delayed for more than 2½ hours until it was determined he could play.

The withdrawal of several top players and the uncertainty of some of the team’s participation has already taken some shine from the Thomas-Uber Cup Finals. And no organiser, including the Danish BA or the BWF can give a 100% no-Covid assurance to any players or officials.

Would it not be more prudent for the BWF just to postpone the tournament to 2021 or cancel it altogether?

The BWF could look at conducting the Thomas-Uber Cups in May next year in place of the Sudirman Cup and push the latter tournament to the following year.

Unless the BWF sees the risk of the players health secondary to the need to restart the badminton calendar, there is no strong reason as to why badminton should restart.

And there is also no strong reason as to why the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) should even consider sending their players to Denmark.

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