The six free-to-play badminton courts were a hive of activity at last Sunday’s opening of Dubai Sports World, with dignitaries on hand representing Badminton World Federation and its leading partners in Dubai.
BWF Secretary General Thomas Lund joined H.E. Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, and Ahmed Al Khaja, Senior Vice President Venues, Dubai World Trade Centre, to watch enthusiastic players of all ages showcase their skills. The festivities also saw DSW ambassador and UAE player Mona Al Sahlawi team up with BWF Shuttle Time Dubai Coordinator Jaffer Ebrahim (below; centre) to challenge some of the more experienced players in Mixed Doubles.
Shuttle Time Dubai was introduced last July as part of the partnership between the Dubai Sports Council and the BWF to bring the Dubai World Superseries Finals to the emirate each December from 2014 to 2017. Assessing the grassroots programme’s progress over the last 12 months as well as that of DSW in recent years, Lund expressed delight at how well things have developed.
“It’s unique what we’ve seen here over the last couple of years. It’s my third time here at Dubai Sports World and it’s really amazing how it’s grown. Three years ago the set-up was good but there weren’t many people playing badminton then. Today is really great and very pleasing to see that the badminton courts are the busiest of all the areas,” he noted.
“That’s basically due to all the hard work that has been put in. Shuttle Time Dubai was introduced with the World Superseries Finals, and the event has created some curiosity from people about badminton, but in reality it’s the work that’s been done by Shuttle Time that is the reason so many people are here today. A lot of children have been introduced to the game on a day-to-day basis in schools, and the clubs and academies across Dubai have come together forming new competitions and are working together. That’s why popularity is increasing and the courts are full today.”
Speaking about the future of the sport in Dubai, Lund added that continuing the education of teachers as well as establishing a national federation are key to entrenching badminton in the community.
“It is vital to continue to educate the teachers. Forming a national federation is an important step and the Dubai Sports Council is talking about that, it’s very important but it doesn’t need to happen today or tomorrow, just in the foreseeable future.
“What is making the difference is the structured work that is being done, there is a lot of effort being made in a focused way. That’s what makes the difference, people can see that they can come and will have a quality experience through sport. Whether they are learning in schools or playing in the academies or they can just find a court and enjoy the game with their families. Badminton can be enjoyed by anyone at any level, it’s quite easy to play, you will enjoy it, get good exercise and it’s good for your health, so it ticks all the boxes.”
While the grassroots program is flourishing, the eyes of the world’s elite players are firmly on qualification for the Dubai World Superseries Finals this year, and Lund is enthusiastic about the calibre of competition we can expect to see from 9-13 December at the Hamdan Sports Complex.
“We are looking forward to the Superseries Finals. This year’s event is part of the qualification process for Rio 2016 (Olympic Games) so the players are all geared up to come and play for glory. The players have been here once and they really enjoyed it. It’s an event they want to come back to and win. Qualification for Rio is done on a points system and the Superseries Finals is one of the events with the highest number of points available so it’s very important for them.
“The Olympic qualifying year is really intense, every match counts so this year so the Superseries Finals promises to be even more exciting than last year. The facilities here are superb, and with a great grassroots program and a fantastic Superseries Finals to look forward to, Dubai is really becoming the new home for badminton.”