THE Badminton Asia Championships will go ahead next month after they were shifted to the Philippines from China, organizers said yesterday, bringing cheer to shuttlers worried about Olympics qualification amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than within it.
There are almost 91,000 cases globally of which more than 80,000 are in China. The death toll was more than 3,000, with the majority of them in China.
Several badminton events, which were to serve as qualifiers for the Tokyo Games, were either cancelled or postponed in recent days due to concerns about the spread of the flu-like illness, with cases reported in some 80 nations.
There are also worries that the Tokyo Games themselves could be postponed or even cancelled, though the Japanese government reiterated yesterday that plans to host them in July remained on track.
The Badminton Asia Championships, which were originally scheduled to be held from April 21-26 in Wuhan, will now take place in Manila.
“Badminton Asia together with the Philippine Badminton Association has been working closely to ensure visa approval for players and officials’ entry into Manila for all participants in this important and prestigious championship,” the organizers said in a statement.
The Badminton World Federation said last week it will not extend the qualification period to add more ranking events in the lead-up to the Olympics as it will affect different players “either positively or negatively”.
The top 16 singles players in the qualification race, limited to two athletes from a nation, are guaranteed spots in the Tokyo Games, which begin on July 24.
Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap had urged badminton’s governing body to reconsider its decision, terming it “unfair for most of the players who are really close to qualifying for Olympics”.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Rugby Football Union announced yesterday that next month’s Asia Sevens Invitational, which doubles as a test event for rugby sevens at the Tokyo Olympics, has been cancelled due to the outbreak.
The tournament, due to be held April 25-26, is the latest Tokyo 2020 test event to be cancelled.
This month’s wheelchair rugby test event was also cancelled, whilst the trial run for new Olympic discipline sports climbing, to begin tomorrow, will be held without athletes. Instead, organizers said Tokyo 2020 staff would climb the walls to “test operational readiness”.
Test events are dress rehearsals ahead of the actual contests at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.