BWF Secretary General Thomas Lund, in an address to fans and media, answered a series of questions on a range of topics in relation to the staging of the three-tournament Asian Leg of the HSBC BWF World Tour in Bangkok, which kicks off next week with the YONEX Thailand Open.
There have been many positives and challenges expressed by teams and players in terms of the set-up of the Asian Leg in Bangkok. Can you share some of the feedback you have heard?
Thomas Lund: There has been a lot of positive feedback from the players who have arrived in Bangkok that we are starting to play badminton again. There has been a lot of preparation from many stakeholders to make this happen and I’m happy to see positive sentiment. It’s a different environment we find ourselves in and we have done everything we can to accommodate the players and their needs, while keeping safety requirements high. It will be a positive experience as we head into the Asian Leg.
On Wednesday (6 January 2021), it was confirmed that all 824 participants in the quarantine bubble, including 216 players, had tested negative upon arrival into Bangkok. Is that a strong indication that the extensive planning and protocols have worked?
TL: It is a huge positive for us. Everyone was instructed before departure to be diligent and go through all necessary testing procedures. We have a badminton bubble that is COVID-19 clear and it’s important everybody continues to comply with protocols for us to be able to stage three world-class badminton tournaments.
Please detail the fantastic work of Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT), the Royal Thai Government and the Department of Disease Control for making the Asian Leg possible and ensuring all three tournaments are staged safely.
TL: The preparations have been unique and like nothing we have ever done before. I would like to thank the Badminton Association of Thailand, the Royal Thai Government and the Department of Disease Control for all their hard work in making this happen. We worked through many dilemmas and scenarios for the past few months. I would also like to extend my thanks to stakeholders and all partners involved.
Are the growing number of cases in Bangkok a concern?
TL: Things seem to change on a weekly basis and it’s always a concern when things develop in a negative way. We have full trust in the Thai Government that they have full control of the situation. Safety protocols are in place and there are no big concerns for the players. We need to monitor the situation, but are confident of a great tournament.
What happens if a player is found to be positive for COVID-19 during the Asian Leg?
TL: If a positive case is found, the player will be isolated and contract tracing will take place. Any player who has been in contact will also need to isolate. As in other sports, this is something we are all getting used to. We are confident we will be able to take care of the player and keep the rest of the players safe during these special times.
China and Japan withdrew from the Asian Leg; what’s your expectation for the level of competition we will see throughout the month?
TL: We will have a great tournament though it was unfortunate that China and Japan had to withdraw, as well as the world’s top men’s doubles pair from Indonesia. We would love to have all the players; we will miss those who withdrew. But we have a great and immensely high level of players in Bangkok.
Do you see the Asian Leg setting the standard or being a blueprint for other tournament hosts to follow throughout the year?
TL: There are a lot of learnings we can use from these tournaments. Each country, however, is different. There will be different minimum standards and different health authorities that will have different requirements to follow. We will take away from this all the possible learnings for our next tournament cluster so the set-up can cope with the impact of COVID-19.
The completion of the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals brings the 2020 season to a close, what can badminton fans expect in 2021?
TL: We recently released a tournament calendar for the first half of 2021. We are planning to keep tournaments together in a different way. There are clusters planned in Indonesia and we hope to make it more accessible for players to be able to travel more easily to such tournaments. We have learnt a lot in the last six months on staging competitions. We hope to see COVID-19 disappear as vaccines come in.