Singapore Open cancellation shows pitfalls of sporting schedules in the Covid-19 era

Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth were looking forward to the Singapore Open, seen as their last chance to book their spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

File photo. (Image credit: Twitter)
By Shayne Dias | May 13, 2021 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Coming into the month of May, the biggest fear in Indian badminton circles was that the Singapore Open would be cancelled. Indeed, on May 12, that is exactly what happened. Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth were keenly looking forward to this tournament. It was seen as their last chance to book their spot in the Tokyo Olympics. And now it’s gone.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise. Singapore is currently in the middle of enforcing travel curbs due to Covid-19. Sporting events are not allowed spectators. And, given the volatile state of affairs regarding the pandemic, a safety-first approach makes sense.

Yet that will be of little consolation to Srikanth and Saina – or indeed, any other badminton player looking to use the Singapore Open as a springboard. That being said, it does raise a few uncomfortable questions.

No Plan B?

Automatic Olympic qualification requires a badminton player to be ranked in the top 16 in the BWF rankings. As a rule, only two players from each country qualify this way.

Saina is ranked 22 in the world, while Srikanth is ranked 20. Therefore, as things stand, they will be absent from the Indian badminton contingent at Tokyo.

Yet there remains a glimmer of hope. “BWF will issue a further statement on Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualifying at a later date,” said the statement announcing the Singapore Open’s cancellation.

Which begs the question – why wasn’t there a back-up plan in place?

True, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Yet it’s not as if the warning signs weren’t there. The whole qualification period itself was changed due to complications surrounding the coronavirus.

In such uncertain times, with many countries still reeling under the pandemic, contingency planning seems a no-brainer. Yet BWF are left to scramble for solutions at the last minute.

Adding pressure to Olympics?

The Tokyo Olympics is in itself dealing with calls from many – including Japan citizens – to cancel the mega-event. Indeed, the event already stands postponed, given it was meant to take place last year.

Yet even in a world where Covid-19 vaccines abound, there remains a sense of discomfort over the Olympics. Tennis stars Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Kei Nishikori are already uncertain over their own participation.

The people of Japan are also not in favour of the events. Some polls state that over 60% of the country’s people want the Games cancelled.

Given the massive outlay on the Games, it seems hard to envision them being called off – since another deferral of the Games is not an option.

At the same time, it is hard to see what good the event will do for fans and athletes – at least the ones that bother to turn up.