Dubai: UAE’s growing reputation as the sporting capital of the world has added another feather with Dubai and Abu Dhabi clinching the deal to host the Badminton Asia Championships, the continental showpiece of the sport, for the next five years, needless to say it is going to be bigger and richer.
“Asia Championships is one of the biggest tournaments in the world of badminton as it acts as the qualifier for Olympics and World Championships. Seeing the popularity of the sport in the country and the region, which has a rich Asian population, we thought it is best to bring the continent’s best here,” said Sathya Menon, CEO of Beyond Boundaries, the management company that has signed the deal with Badminton Asia.
This will be the first time the Championships, formerly Asian Badminton Championships, will be held in the UAE. The tournament has been held annually in various cities every year since 1991, with the only break coming in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19. Several top players compete for the individual and team championships with ranking points on offer in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) 1000 tournament.
However, as a change the likes of Akane Yamaguchi, Tai Tzu-ying, An Se-young and PV Sindhu in the women and Kento Momota, Chen Long and Lakshya Sen in the men will be visiting UAE twice a year as they will be playing in the team championships in February and the individual championships in October from 2023-2027.
Dubai Fitness Challenge
“Every year this championships will take place in April, but we are in talks with Dubai Tourism and Dubai Sports Council and wanted the individual championships to be held in October as part of the Dubai Fitness Challenge,” added Sathya Menon.
Manila hosted the 2022 championships in April with Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia and Wang Zhiyi of China winning the men’s and women’s singles titles, while Indonesia’s Pramudya Kusumawardana and Yeremia Rambitan bagging the men’s doubles gold. Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China clinched the women’s doubles title, while the Chinese pair of Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong claimed the mixed doubles gold.
Badminton Asia chief, Anton Subowo, its secretary-general Moosa Nashid and Sathya Menon were present when the two organisations signed the deal last month in Singapore.
“Badminton is one of the most-popular sports with an all-time high participation and fan base,” said Subowo. “It will be exciting to host the Badminton Asia Championships in a new arena.” For the record, 12 of the top 15 in the latest BWF men’s and women’s rankings are from Asia.
Satya Menon offered more clarity on the thought process behind the move. “Badminton has a fan base of 200 million from India, 440 million in China and 90 million in Indonesia. With a huge Asian population, we wanted to have this tournament in the UAE for the next five years.”
Dubai had also hosted the World Super Series Finals at the Hamdan Complex from 2014-2017, which is also a proof of the popularity of badminton in UAE.
Increase in prize money
The Badminton Asia Championships also see an increase in prize money in both the individual and team championships. Currently the individual championships have a total prize fund of $1.2 million, which will be increased to $1.5 million, while the team championships to have $500,000 from the existing $100,000 purse.
“We wanted this to be the richest and most luxurious event for both the players and also the visitors as we expect around 75,000-100,000 people travelling for the championships. This our way to show the love for the sport, which grew even more after seeing the likes of Saina [Nehwal] and Sindhu succeed on the world stage,” added Sathya Menon. “We hope to bring an IPL model in badminton, that’s our vision. Any dream is possible in UAE,” concluded Sathya Menon, who is also the CEO of Blue Ocean Academy.