Every four years, the world’s attention turns to the Olympics – and the sports on show make their pitch to the public. As we get down to the business end of the competition, Will Jones asks what the Games means for the future of badminton
Every sport has its flagship events – grand slam tournaments, continental and world championships, season-ending showdowns that bring together the top-ranked players. These major annual or biennial events help bring definition to each sport, showcasing the world’s leading players for audiences eager to see the best of the best.
However, for the vast majority of sports on the Olympic programme, these single-sport events are eclipsed every four years by the Olympic Games. Many athletes gear their entire training and competition schedule around the quadrennial Olympic cycle, aiming to time their peak to coincide with the arrival of the torch in the host city.
Victory at any world championship is no small feat, and will gain you respect, recognition and fame. An Olympic gold medal, though, has the potential to transcend such an achievement, at least in the eyes of a general public who are gripped by the spectacle of the Games for 17 days.
Take badminton, for instance. The sport stages a number of high-profile, top-tier events, including the BWF World Superseries Finals held annually in Dubai. But the Olympic Games are the competition that everyone wants to win more than any other.
“The Olympic Games is the pinnacle,” admits Thomas Lund, a former doubles specialist who now serves as the BWF Secretary General. “In Rio, in August – that’s where everything happens, and everybody is excited. The world follows the Olympic Games on TV.” With the knockout stages of the badminton competition starting today, the eyes of the world will be on the sport.
Lund understands that the Games have the potential to boost badminton’s fanbase. “The Olympic brand helps us to bring our sport out to the world – to other corners of the world where badminton may not be as big.”
But, as Lund points out, it works both ways. “At the same time, we as a sport are able to bring value to the Olympic Games.” After all, it’s the quality, variety and integrity of its programme that have turned the Olympic Games into the biggest sporting stage in the world.
The Olympic badminton competition continues until Saturday, August 20