Badminton takes permanent residence in Dubai

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) last month announced the opening of an office in Dubai. The federation’s arrival is just the latest stage in the sport’s meteoric rise across the UAE, as Will Jones reports

For the third year in succession, the badminton world descended on Dubai in December for the most prestigious annual tournament on the sport’s calendar. The 2016 Dubai World Superseries Finals brought together the best singles players and doubles teams on the planet for a five-day season-ending showdown at the Hamdan Sports Complex, with an overall prize-money pot of US$1,000,000.

However, the Finals may not have been the most significant event for Emirati badminton last month. Three days after the tournament ended, the Badminton World Federation (BWF), the sport’s international governing body, announced the opening of a BWF office in Dubai – giving badminton a vitally important permanent presence in the heart of the UAE.

The establishment of the BWF & Badminton Asia Regional Office at the Dubai Sports Council’s Dubai Design District headquarters caps a remarkable few years for the sport in the UAE. This halcyon period began in 2014, when the BWF first brought the Finals to the Hamdan Sports Complex, and the profile of the event has only expanded in subsequent years.

While the Finals have made the headlines, participation in the sport has also been growing at a grassroots level through Shuttle Time Dubai – described by Thomas Lund, the BWF Secretary General as “the platform through which we can really grow badminton in Dubai, and galvanise interest in and passion for the sport”.

Then in March 2016, less than 12 months ago, the UAE Table Tennis & Badminton Association was founded as the first-ever governing body for badminton in the UAE. Described as “a fantastic milestone for the growth and development of the sport” by Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council, the association last month became the 187th international member of the BWF.

Announcing the launch of the federation’s new Dubai office, BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer pointed out that “more than two billion people across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region live in the four-hour time zone either side of Dubai, placing the emirate right in the epicentre of badminton’s key markets”.

With badminton now firmly established as one of the region’s fastest-growing pastimes, the establishment of the BWF & Badminton Asia Regional Office should help to take the sport to the next level.