Gearing up for the big show


The spotlight will be on Saina Nehwal as she seeks to underline her growing stature in the sport in front of her hometown fans, writes Abhijit Sen Gupta.

Badminton lovers in Hyderabad are eagerly looking forward to watching some of the world’s best players in action, while the sports administrators and organisers are gearing up to stage the World Badminton Championship at the Gachibowli indoor stadium from August 10 to 16.

Almost all the top names of international badminton, including men’s World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, World No. 2 Jin Chen of China and World No. 3 Peter Gade have confirmed their participation. Also in the fray will be World No. 4 Taufik Hidayat, who built up a huge fan following in Hyderabad when he won the India Open Gold Grand Prix championship here earlier. Other contenders for the world title are four-time All-England champion and two-time World champion Lin Dan, and Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro, an aggressive fighter who can stun the best on his day.

According to India’s Chief National Coach Gopi Chand, the championship should provide Taufik Hidayat a chance to prove that his Indian Open victory was no flash in the pan. He also feels that Peter Gade of Denmark, even at the ripe age of 32, is still a major threat to the younger players.

In the women’s section, the players to watch out for are World No. 1 Mi Zhou of Hong Kong and World No. 3 Yian Wang of China. But the cynosure is likely to be India’s own Saina Nehwal who is looking at this championship as an opportunity to underline her growing stature in the sport in front of her adoring home town fans.

Saina and two-time National champion Chetan Anand will lead the Indian challenge. The host country will have three entries each in the main draw in the men’s and women’s singles – Chetan Anand, Arvind Bhat and P. Kashyap in the men’s section and Saina Nehwal, Aditi Mutatkar and Sayali Gokhale on the distaff side.

This is besides the men’s doubles combinations of Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar, K. Tharun Reddy and Arun Vishnu, and Akshay Dewalkar and Jishnu Sanyal. The mixed doubles combinations will be Jwala Gutta and V. Diju, and Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan.

“Saina will be our best hope, but players like Chetan and Arvind also have the potential to pull off big upsets. We will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each player,” says Gopi.

According to Ms. V. Radha, VC & MD of the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SAAP), the body is spending close to Rs. 30 lakh towards upgrading the venue to meet the international standards. “There will be no scope for any complaints from players or officials,” she says confidently. Two indoor warm-up courts are being laid adjacent to the main playing area.

But in many respects the task for the organisers will be a demanding one. The most important aspect where a host of problems have to be sorted out will be security and transportation of players and officials.

The location of the stadium being quite far away from the city, transportation of players and officials to and from the venue will have to be worked out in minute detail and a back-up plan must be in place as the city witnesses frequent and massive traffic jams. Also, August is a time for heavy rains and water logging of roads is quite common.

The organisers are going all out to come up with a foolproof security cover both at the venue and the hotels where the players and officials will be staying.

About 600 policemen will be on duty at the stadium and the hotels and closed circuit televisions, connected to the Cyberabad Police Commissionerate, will be installed. Screening of all vehicles will be mandatory and each team vehicle will be provided with armed escort whenever the players or the BWF officials wish to travel.

A huge amount of Rs. 35 lakh is likely to be spent on transport alone and about 80 buses and 20 cars are being hired for the purpose. Doordarshan, which will telecast the event live, is also gearing up and plans to have nine cameras for each of the two main courts.