MUMBAI (Reuters) - The Badminton Asia Championships will go ahead next month after it was shifted to the Philippines from China, organisers said on Wednesday, bringing cheer to shuttlers worried about Olympics qualification amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than within it.
There are almost 91,000 cases globally of which more than 80,000 are in China. The death toll was more than 3,000, with the majority of them in China.
Several badminton events, which were to serve as qualifiers for the Tokyo Games, were either cancelled or postponed in recent days due to concerns about the spread of the flu-like illness, with cases reported in some 80 nations.
There are also worries that the Tokyo Olympics itself could be postponed or even cancelled, though the Japanese government reiterated on Wednesday that plans to host the Games in July remained on track.
The Badminton Asia Championships, which was originally scheduled to be held from April 21-26 in Wuhan, will now take place in Manila.
“Badminton Asia together with the Philippine Badminton Association has been working closely to ensure visa approval for players and officials’ entry into Manila for all participants in this important and prestigious championship,” the organisers said in a statement.
The Badminton World Federation said last week it will not extend the qualification period to add more ranking events in the leadup to the Olympics as it will affect different players “either positively or negatively”.
The top 16 singles players in the qualification race, limited to two athletes from the same nation, are guaranteed spots in the Tokyo Games, which begin on July 24.
Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap urged badminton’s governing body to reconsider its decision terming it “unfair for most of the players who are really close to qualifying for Olympics”.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman