S'pore Open back on badminton calendar

In what is another sign that the world of sports is gradually coming back to life, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) yesterday announced its tournament calendar for the first half of next year, with the Singapore Open scheduled for April 13-18 as a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics.

In March, the BWF suspended all sanctioned tournaments this year, including the Singapore Open, and froze the Olympic qualification and world rankings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nine of the world’s top 10 men’s singles shuttlers, including reigning Olympic champion Chen Long, as well as all of the top 10 women’s players, had been confirmed for the US$408,000 (S$546,000) Singapore Open.

In last year’s edition, 4,962 spectators turned up at the Singapore Indoor Stadium to watch Kento Momota and Tai Tzu-ying win the men’s and women’s singles respectively.

The 2021 season will begin with the Thailand Open from Jan 12-17, with the qualifiers for the July 23-Aug 8 Olympics restarting on March 2 at the Swiss Open.

BWF secretary general Thomas Lund said: “The focus has been to establish cluster tournaments where possible, similar to what is planned for the Asian Leg in January in Thailand and we expect to stage a number of tournaments this way to ensure a more feasible tournament programme in 2021.

“The Covid-19 situation continues to provide a challenging environment to run international tournaments, and although the hope is that the Covid-19 vaccine may in time create a world with fewer restrictions, BWF expects that the pandemic will still influence tournament hosting throughout the whole of 2021.”

The Singapore Badminton Association told The Straits Times it is working closely with Sport Singapore and BWF to finalise arrangements for the Singapore Open.

It added they will continue to monitor the pandemic and assess its impact on the event.

Singapore’s top shuttlers Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min are itching to get back on court.

Men’s singles world No. 38 Loh said: “Considering how we were unable to compete in most tournaments this year due to Covid-19, I’m definitely excited to return to play in tournaments when they resume next year.

REPUBLIC SET TO PLAY HOST AGAIN

GOLF

Women’s World Championship – TBC

BADMINTON

Singapore Open – April 13-18

FORMULA ONE

Singapore Grand Prix – Oct 3

RUGBY

Singapore Sevens – Oct 29-30 

“If conditions allow the Singapore Open to take place, it would be great because I’ve always enjoyed playing on home ground, which makes it a different and exciting experience.”

Women’s singles world No. 26 Yeo added: “Being able to compete abroad is the key to maintaining our sharpness on court. I’m looking forward to being able to participate in more tournaments if the virus situation eases. It is always a joy to compete in the Singapore Open, in my home country, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The BWF also announced a Covid-19 support package for hosts, providing financial assistance and cost relief initiatives to ensure tournaments can continue to be part of the BWF World Tour next year.

Lund added: “The support will help hosts cover the costs of implementing BWF Covid-19 protocols which include testing, arrangements around hotel safety, cleaning, provisions of masks to participants, and sanitising equipment.

“There is also the possibility to reduce total minimum prize money for 2021 in the effort to reduce costs, but BWF would encourage all hosts to keep minimum prize money levels as high as possible for the benefit of our top players.”

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