Dev S Sukumar. Hyderabad
A media-created ‘terror attack’ claimed a big victim on Sunday, when the Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced that the England team had decided to withdraw from the World Badminton Championships that will begin today (Monday). The BWF however confirmed that no other team had approached it with a similar decision. England’s withdrawal came a blow to the Indian badminton community because this is the first World Championships being held in India.
Thomas Lund, Chief Operating Officer of BWF, addressed a press conference in which he stated that the ten-member England team had decided to withdraw after reading of a Lashkar-e-Taiba threat to the championships in a prominent newspaper (The Times of India). “They landed here on Friday morning and they saw the report on that day. The news coming out on Friday connecting the World Championships with a terror attack influenced their decision. After reading the article on Friday morning, the BWF consulted the police to clarify on the matter. The (Cyberabad) Commissioner confirmed that there was absolutely no specific threat from anywhere. I know the England team discussed the matter with their association, and I believe they tried to contact the embassasy as well. We met them on Saturday evening to present the facts of the matter, but they had made up their minds by then. It’s an unfortunate decision.”
The withdrawal will cast a shadow over the Worlds, for England had some strong contenders in the men’s doubles and mixed doubles events. More importantly, the event showed how a news report could trigger a fallout of this nature. TV crews covering the practise sessions of the teams repeatedly questioned players on the ‘terror threat’, although most visiting teams had no clue about what they were being asked. Competing TV channels, desperate for exclusive sound bytes, asked the ‘security’ question three times to a Korean player, until an exasperated translator shot back: “I’m actually getting to hear it from you! I didn’t know there was a problem.”
Chinese chief coach Li Yongbo and Denmark’s world No.3 Peter Gade preferred to talk of the on-court action. “Obviously, we were a bit worried when we first heard the reports, because we have families back home,” said Gade. “It’s not nice to hear, but I haven’t seen anything to worry me. I’m confident that the security agencies will do their job.”
China’s usually-reticent chief coach Li Yongbo said the team was not worried. “We have been here for two days. The Indians have done a lot of work as far as security is concerned, and I’m not worried at all.”
Among the others who addressed Cyberabad police commissioner Prabhakar Reddy, VK Verma, President of Badminton Association of India, and other BWF officials. About the only positive news to come out of England’s withdrawal is that top Indian mixed doubles pair Jwala Gutta and V Diju will progress into the third round, as they have a bye in the opener and were due to face an English pair in the second.