2016 Dubai World Superseries Finals: Dubai – the home of elite badminton

2016 marks the third year in a row that the Dubai World Superseries Finals heads to Dubai. Gruffudd Owen takes a look at the steps being taken in the city to promote the sport – and hears from the players themselves on what makes it such a special place

With the Dubai World Superseries Finals being held at the Hamdan Sports Complex this year – and the lucrative season-ending tournament returning to the same venue in 2017 – Dubai can lay claim to being one of the world’s leading badminton destinations.

Gaining this reputation has taken time and effort. Such is the Dubai Sports Council’s commitment to promoting badminton that the enthusiasm for the sport in the city can be felt at all levels of the game – and not solely during the five days of Finals competition.

The official draw for this year’s tournament was conducted with the help of local children from Shuttle Time Dubai, a scheme launched by the Badminton World Federation to encourage children and young people to take up the sport.

Active in over 80 countries worldwide, the Dubai programme is especially popular. In August, over 160 players from 15 teams competed in the Shuttle Time Dubai Championships, an encouraging turnout that hints at the sport’s year-round appeal in the city.

October also saw Shuttle Time Dubai hosting its first para-badminton workshop, a two-day course led by international para-badminton coaches and attended by 45 members of local clubs. With the sport set to make its Paralympic debut in four years’ time at Tokyo, it is clear that the growth of all variants of badminton is a long-term aim.

And hosting badminton’s elite tournament in Dubai – during which the Shuttle Time participants have the chance to see the sport’s biggest stars in action – will only help boost numbers.

We have over 400 events every year in Dubai - the Dubai World Superseries Finals is one of the best

His Excellency Saeed Hareeb, Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council

“We have over 400 events every year in Dubai. The Dubai World Superseries Finals is one of the best of the 400,” His Excellency Saeed Hareeb, Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council, reveals.

“This is a huge achievement for the tournament and organisers. The event is important for many reasons. We see some of the best players in Dubai; as a result, there is a growth in badminton in the local community and at grassroots level.”

Not merely satisfied with seeing playing numbers increase, the DSC has also held courses for the training of coaches and technical officials. Such a holistic approach to developing badminton has left a big impression on the sport’s world governing body.  

Thomas Lund is the Secretary General of the BWF, and has been greatly impressed by what he has seen since the Finals first came to Dubai in 2014.

The Dane – himself a hugely successful mixed doubles player in the 1990s – is determined for the Finals to leave behind a positive legacy. He has no doubt that this is being done in Dubai.

“What has been done over the last three years with all the stakeholders is they have tried to not only promote the tournament, but also to create a legacy in terms of building grassroots programmes, getting badminton into schools and clubs, and having more players participating on a day-to-day basis,” he explains.

“It’s what we also want to achieve as an international federation. We come here with an event, but leaving here without having made some impact but would be a sad story. 

Dubai is the icing on the cake of badminton season

Gabrielle Adcock, Mixed doubles defending champion

“I think there is a strong legacy left every time we leave here, and it’s growing year on year. A lot of work is being done in between the two events to build up the interest and awareness in badminton, and inspiring lots of kids to play the game throughout the year.”

While promoting the game at grassroots level is undoubtedly a key aim, making the world’s best players feel at home in Dubai during the Finals is also important.

Speak to this year’s finalists, and you discover that their thoughts on coming to Dubai for badminton’s season-ending event are unanimously positive.

“Dubai really is the icing on the cake of the badminton season,” says Gabrielle Adcock, who, along with her husband Chris, is the mixed doubles defending champion.

“It’s so special playing here. The players’ lounge, the facilities, the accommodation; everything is amazing. It puts you in a good mood before you even start playing!”

Men’s singles player Marc Zwiebler of Germany – who appears in his first Superseries Finals this year – agrees wholeheartedly.

“It’s definitely a special occasion and event,” he says.

“There’s a limited number of players, and there are a lot of events which have been put on around the tournament itself.

“I went to the gala dinner, and my coach and I also went around town and saw a lot. It was a great opportunity to get away from the cold weather in Germany!

“It looks great, and I can’t wait to start and play in the arena. I’m really looking forward to stepping on court here.”

While the tournament will return to Dubai for the 2017 Finals, the venue for 2018 and beyond has yet to be decided by the BWF. Nevertheless, with the last three editions proving so successful, Dubai has already – and deservedly – secured its place among the very best destinations for elite badminton.

Gruffudd Owen will be reporting live from the event all week - go to www.vision.ae or @visionsportae on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for more updates