"Denmark is one of the safest places on the planet right now as far as the virus situation is concerned," says former World No 1 Morten Frost. "And if badminton cannot resume here, I really don't know what could be a better option."
Frost's defence of his homeland comes as a cloud hangs over the Thomas and Uber Cups, due to be held in Denmark next month. Several leading nations, including Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand, have pulled out of the tournament over pandemic-related concerns and even Indian players have voiced their opposition to playing there.
- Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) September 13, 2020
The Badminton World Federation's official announcement is still awaited. This is the first time that the already twice-postponed biennial team competition between nations was to be held in Europe since 1982. It was also supposed to be the first BWF event since the All England Open in March. The October 3-11 Thomas Uber Cup is scheduled to be followed by two Super 750 events in the Scandinavian nation - Denmark Open (October 13-18) and Denmark Masters (October 20-25).
"The Danish federation has gone to great lengths, taken a whole lot of effort...stupendous really, to make sure that the tournament can take place with all health measures in place," Frost told ESPN on Monday. "It's unfortunate that despite constant dialogue with the participating nations there have been pullouts lately. Badminton has to find a way to kick-start or the sport could stand to lose."
Fellow coach Vimal Kumar agrees it's a setback for badminton to be dithering when top sports - football, tennis, golf, cricket - are making bold decisions and conducting top events. Football is on across Europe's top leagues, so is the NBA. This weekend saw the NFL season resume and US Open tennis conclude. The Indian Premier League cricket gets underway in a few days' time and Tiger Woods tees off at the year's second major, the US Open golf this week. "It's really terrible the way Asian countries have responded to plans of resumption. It should not devolve into a Europe vs Asia politics, we have to see what's best for the sport. That's the only way we can move forward."
Recently, 13-time Thomas Cup champions Indonesia pulled out, apart from Korea, Thailand and Australia. Hong Kong and Singapore had earlier turned down their invite. While two big names China and Japan were also reportedly on the fence over their participation.
Headquartered in Malaysia, with nine out of the top 10 countries (with the exception of Denmark) in the sport belonging to Asia, BWF's top two offices - president and secretary general - are held by Danes.
In July, BWF cancelled four Asian events - Taipei Open (Sep 1-6), Korea Open (Sep 8-13), China Open (Sep 15-20) and Japan Open (Sep 22-27). Domestic events in most Southeast Asian countries who have pulled out of the Thomas Uber Cup, have long resumed. Korea was way ahead of the international curve to restart play, giving the go-ahead to both Korea Baseball Organisation (KBO) and K-League soccer, as early as May this year. This when sport globally was at a halt.
"If you look at tennis, why are the Indian and all other players out there, traveling from US to Europe, between Challengers and Grand Slams? Because that's what professional sport is about. You are out there on your own, paying out of your own pocket for coaches, training and travel to tournaments. If you don't play, you could go hungry. In badminton here, coaching and training are paid for, and if you fall within the top 25 ranking cut-off your tournament expenses are covered too. Despite all of this, you find players complaining. Badminton has a long way to go before it can be professional in the true sense, particularly in Asia," says Vimal.