For nearly five years now, Korea’s badminton legend Park Joo Bong has been busy resurrecting the fortunes of Japan. Winner of an Olympic gold, a silver, five World crowns and nine All-England titles, this doubles’ exponent expects rising star Kenichi Tago to create a flutter in the Badminton Asia championships this week.
Though World champion Lin Dan and former Olympic gold medallist Taufik Hidayat are expected to fight for the title, the sixth-seeded Tago is considered a dark horse following his surprise appearance in the final this year’s All-England championships.
“I know that countries like Malaysia, China and Indonesia have not sent their best players this year but then, these are badminton powerhouses. Players from these countries are always tough to beat.
So I expect Tago to play hard and give us some good news.” Park Joo Bong, who formed a formidable pair with Kim Moon Soo, sounded modest about the chances of the Japanese contingent in the championship when he said, “I expect at least one Japanese in the final.” In fact, the top two seeds in the women’s doubles and the second seeds in the men’s doubles are Japanese.
Inducted into the badminton’s Hall of Fame in 2001, Park Joo Bong chose to be the head coach of Japan when the offer came his way and the results have been getting better and better.
“Badminton is not the most followed sport in Japan but the media has been a big factor in the revival of the game in recent years,” observed the soft-spoken Korean.
Since playing the 1982 Asian Games here, Park Joo Bong has visited the country 15 times. This time it is different because of the new venue and the emphasis on security. Sometimes we feel, we've had enough of checks and security but then we understand the security concerns.
It’s okay,” said the 45-year-old. “Such security measures are seen in the Olympics or the Asian Games, but this is for the first time that I am going through the drill in an Asian championship,” the Korean said.
Asked about the playing conditions here, Park Joo Bong said, “Well, the hall looks pretty good but my players tell me that drift could be a factor. The lighting is fine but the practice area is very dusty.”
Meanwhile, the organisers struggled to get things in order ahead of the main draw of the championship that is set to start on Wednesday.
The scoreboards worked well, in contrast to Monday’s blank screens, but the venue management was still in a mess.
On Tuesday morning, quite shockingly, the policemen stopped the mediapersons from reaching the Media Centre, saying they had “no order from the top.” The matter was resolved only after an informal meeting between the top officials of Delhi Police and those handling the media on behalf of the Press Information Bureau.
Again, poor briefing appears to have been the main cause for the discomfort of the parties concerned.
The transport arrangement remained as messy as it was the previous day with the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee’s Director (Communications) Gaurav Thakur refusing to see reason in spite of the explanation from the mediapersons.
The arrival of Badminton Association of India President V. K. Verma, who is also the Director General of the OC, at the venue gave some hope of the issues being resolved.
In the name of ‘test events’ for the Commonwealth Games, the officials working with the Organising Committee (OC), with little experience of having worked at major championships, have taken over much of the responsibilities for various events in different sports leading to hiccups.
Federations, which normally would have organised a continental meet without much ado are struggling to co-ordinate simple tasks.
On the court, the second day of qualifying rounds when no Indian was on view, results came on expected lines.