The city of Dubai offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sport. But what draws the crowds to the Hamdan Sports Complex for the Dubai World Superseries Finals? Gruffudd Owen speaks to the spectators, players and organisers on the allure of badminton’s elite season-ending event
Yura Hizbul (Brunei), 28-year-old newlywed
Yura Hizbul is a tourist from Brunei. After getting married last month, Yura and his wife embarked on a week-long honeymoon to Dubai. They heard about the Dubai World Superseries Finals, and decided to book tickets online for the second day of action at the tournament.
“The tickets were very cheap; they were only around 25 AED. In my country, that’s around 10 Brunei dollars.
“I’m a big fan of Lee Chong Wei. I managed to catch his second game against Angus Ng Ka Long, so I’m grateful for that.
“I think he can win this year. I hope he will. There’s news he’ll retire after winning another major tournament, and the Finals are the biggest tournament. If he wins this, he can then give way to the new generation of Malaysian players. Hopefully the Chinese players will not get in his way.
“I follow badminton over other sports because it’s so intense. You need 21 points to win, so there’s adrenalin in every point. In football, you have to go from one area to the other. But with badminton, it’s a small court. Every point matters in this sport.
“The badminton was great fun, and we’re now planning on doing some more sightseeing in Dubai – maybe a visit to the desert.”
Thomas Lund, Secretary General of the BWF
Secretary General of the Badminton World Federation since 2012, Thomas Lund has overseen the staging of the Finals in Dubai for the past three years. The Dane – himself a player in the 1990s – stresses the importance of making the event accessible to as many supporters as possible, which in turn helps create a vibrant atmosphere when the games begin.
“I think it’s probably the best value of anything you can buy in Dubai – or maybe in the whole world!
“This is truly world-class badminton you’ll be able to see here, with a very reasonable admission fee. It’s really about getting people into the arena and creating an experience for them.
“We didn’t want the admission fee to be a barrier preventing people from coming. We just want to invite as many people as possible, have a party, and enjoy the experience.
“We hope there’ll be many people coming and taking part in the party.”
Lucy Hu (China), 28-year-old chatshow host
Lucy Hu is a chatshow host on a Chinese TV channel. She interviews CEOs and other prominent businesspeople from her city, and is in Dubai to attend the International Film Festival. Despite her work commitments, she decided to use her spare time to visit the Hamdan Sports Complex for the Superseries Finals.
“I got a message from some friends mentioning the Superseries Finals. They talk about it a lot in the newspapers and on social media channels such as WeChat and Weibo back in China. I guess a lot of people know about the tournament.
“It’s very famous; I hadn’t got the chance to see it yet, so I couldn’t really miss it this year.
“My favourite players are Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, and I’d really like to see the Chinese players in action.
“I play badminton, but I’m really terrible at it! It’s a great sport because it’s suitable for people of all ages.
“I used to work in Dubai for four years, and still come back from time to time – usually once a year during winter when the weather is more agreeable. I’m sure I’ll come back to the Finals when I visit Dubai next December.”
Viktor Axelsen, men’s singles world no. 4
Regarded as one of the most promising young players to have emerged in the game in recent years, Viktor Axelsen arrived in Dubai fresh from claiming the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The Dane is supportive of the attempts made by organisers in trying to fill the arena at the Hamdan Sports Complex.
“It means a lot that the stands are full of spectators. It creates such a good atmosphere.
“That is what badminton’s goal should be, because no one wants to play in an arena where there are no people watching.
“I really think that badminton needs to do what it can to get people into the arena and involved in the atmosphere. That’s what the players want, and it’s what the federation should want as well. And I’m sure they do.”
Kiran Moban Mathew (UAE), 17-year-old student
Kiran is a student at Heriot-Watt University in Dubai. She is working towards a foundation course in architecture and engineering, and plays badminton at university. Also a keen dancer, the teenager is looking out for two players in particular at the Finals.
“My favourite badminton players are here – Lee Chong Wei and PV Sindhu. I think they can both go on and win gold in their respective categories.
“Since I was very young, I was interested in badminton. I started playing the sport when I was small.
“My mother is also into badminton – in fact, my whole family is. We are badminton crazy.”
Gruffudd Owen will be reporting live from the event - go to www.vision.ae or @visionsportae on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for more updates