London played host to the BWF World Badminton Championships last week, as the city's preparations for next year's Olympic Games continue. The tournament was held at Wembley Arena, which will stage the badminton events during next year's Games, and attracted enthusiastic crowds eager to cheer on their heroes, with excitement building ahead of the Games in less than 12 months’ time.
The tournament also gave the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) the opportunity to test crucial aspects of its Games-time operations and formed part of the London Prepares series of sporting events, which is being used to fine-tune preparations for the Games next year.
The Wembley venue – which was also used during the 1948 Games in London, when it hosted some of the boxing, diving, swimming, and water polo events – has been extensively refurbished in recent years and received praise from competitors during last week’s tournament.
Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei, who finished second to China’s Lin Dan in the men’s singles, said: “It is the first time I have been to Wembley and the first time I have been to London. It is good. It has been a good experience to come to London and a good experience for next year, for the Olympic Games at the same stadium.”
China's Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng secured their fourth world title in the men’s doubles, and Cai was also pleased to gain experience of playing at Wembley Arena ahead of the Games next year.
“It’s very important to win this tournament and for us to adjust to the venue,” he said. “The playing hall is very good.”
British mixed doubles pair Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier delighted the home crowd with their run to the final, where they were beaten by China’s Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei. Despite the disappointment of missing out on gold, Bankier was pleased with how the championship went and is now targeting a place in the British team at next year’s Games.
“To play the number of games we have at Wembley has been a fantastic experience for what will hopefully be a successful Olympic Games,” she said. “In terms of Olympic qualifying this is a great start and hopefully we will shoot up the rankings. The confidence we will get from this whole week will be a huge positive.”