Not so long ago, Dubai and badminton seemed worlds apart. The emirate was known for hosting big-ticket events in other sports such as tennis and football; badminton never even lurked on the horizon.
Badminton facilities were limited to multi-sport halls owned by schools, with few coaching opportunities. Things started to change when the emirate’s leaders took the initiative to make Dubai a sports destination.
The turning point for badminton was 2014 when the Dubai Sports Council joined hands with BWF to host the Dubai World Superseries Finals under a four-year agreement. The Dubai Badminton Development Project, a brainchild of the above partnership, envisaged a multifaceted programme aiming to develop badminton in the emirate, starting with Shuttle Time Dubai.
Realising that the sport could only flourish with the development of an ecosystem involving Emirati and expatriate players, academics, coaches, venues, Technical Officials (TO) and competitions, a team was formed under the UAE Badminton umbrella. Besides establishing a junior and senior national ranking circuit and regular Technical Officials’ development activities, it also organised coach education, school programmes and training of event organisers, while ensuring regular competition opportunities for players.
Thus, an adequate supply of TO workforce was available for the multitude of events spread throughout a busy badminton calendar.
Dubai in 2021 is a regional hub for badminton, the home of nearly 30 badminton academies, over 400 junior ranked players, over 100 certified TOs, and several world-class arenas. During the pandemic, the UAE Badminton team kept itself busy by conducting AirBadminton tournaments, Special Olympics virtual coaching sessions, Shuttle Time national skill development programmes, a community clubs tournament, Emirati Women’s Championships, and the 6th edition of the Shuttle Time Dubai Club Championships, while strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
Jaffer Ebrahim, BWF Dubai Badminton Development Manager, noted the high-profile nature of events held in recent months that have helped build Dubai’s reputation as a badminton hub.
“Meticulous conduct of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, IWAS World Games, Fazza-Dubai Para Badminton International and other international events in recent years prove the Dubai Badminton Development Project has been not only successful in promoting badminton as a popular sport in the region but also brought about the upliftment of badminton in and around Dubai. Thanks to the team’s efforts, badminton has become a natural choice for schools and universities in the region,” Ebrahim said.
With the opening of 10 world-class indoor stadia in the past few months, there is no stopping badminton’s development in Dubai.