Sunday, August 24, 2014
Text by Gayle Alleyne | Edwin Leung & BWF
Festivities for the Li-Ning BWF World Championships began today with officials predicting one of the best events ever in the annual clash of badminton titans.
While players got in their final practice sessions and technical crews and other staff made the final preparations at Ballerup Super Arena, badminton dignitaries and other guests attended a welcome reception at Copenhagen City Hall. Some of the sport’s biggest names such as Lee Chong Wei, Chen Long, defending Women’s Singles champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand and her arch-rival Li Xuerui of China (featured image; right) , turned out for the occasion as did home stars like Joachim Fischer Nielsen, Viktor Axelsen, Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl.
On the eve of the World Championships, BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer (below; left) heralded the growing global demand for live badminton action which, he noted, “proves badminton has arrived as a strong product in the sports-entertainment market”. The Dane stated that an estimated 20,000 fans will attend the championships while another 450,000 to 500,000 households worldwide are expected to watch this spectacle live every day.
“At BWF, it’s our duty to propel this interest by showcasing even better tournaments – but we cannot do it alone. Such large-scale events are almost impossible without strong corporate partnerships. In this regard, I wish to salute and recognise our title sponsors, Li-Ning, for their whole-hearted support of BWF Major Events and, in particular, of these championships. May I also thank Chery and RedBull China – our other Major Events sponsors – as well as all the Denmark-based partners who have come on board for this prestigious tournament,” he said.
Høyer also highlighted Copenhagen’s unique relationship with the BWF World Championships, having hosted three previous editions of this event in 1983, 1991 and 1999. It’s a distinction of which the city is immensely proud, he said.
Director of Li-Ning’s Indoor Sports Business Unit, Li Zhujun (above; centre), offered greetings on behalf of the title sponsor and pledged that Li-Ning will continue “providing the best service” to badminton to the utmost of its ability. She also thanked Badminton Denmark and the BWF for their substantial support of Li-Ning as title sponsor and as a BWF Major Events partner. Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen (above; right) also greeted invitees and urged those from overseas to visit some of Denmarks famous attractions amid watching badminton.
Meanwhile, players remained cautious yet optimistic about their prospects at the championships which start tomorrow morning.
Intanon, who was recently hospitalised with a fever and flu, said she is not thinking too far ahead or about retaining her Women’s Singles title. If she can at least reach the quarter-final, the Thai 19-year-old would be satisfied having practised little before coming here. By contrast, Li Xuerui who perished to Intanon a year ago is looking to set things right but, though competing in the land of Hans Christian Andersen, the Olympic champion isn’t banking on a fairytale run. She expects a tough fight all the way.
Leading Men’s Singles contender, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia (above) noted this is his first outing since an injury lay-off which saw him skip the Commonwealth Games. Well aware that all eyes are on him in the absence of China’s Lin Dan – to whom he lost last year’s final – he stated he will try his best despite not being 100 per cent. Another Chinese opponent, Chen Long, is also in the mix and looking to put a sub-standard year behind him with a big victory in Denmark.
“Since the Thomas Cup, I have been training and I have adjusted some of my techniques. I want to win this title,” he told media (below).
Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen will be on double duty, battling for honours in both Women’s and Mixed Doubles with Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Joachim Fischer Nielsen respectively.
After six weeks of hard practice, she is ready to go!
“I’m looking forward to starting. We have had very good preparation and we are focused. It’s great to play on home soil. I like to have my family and friends close to me when I’m playing in a tournament like this.”
An estimated 400 players from across the world will compete in Men’s and Women’s Singles, Men’s and Women’s Doubles as well as Mixed Doubles over the next seven days to determine who will be crowned World champions for 2014.
There will be new winners in Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles as last year’s champions are not competing in Copenhagen.