The Olympic qualification period will end with the India Open in New Delhi in May.
After multiple postponements and doubts on the future of the event, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) on Monday confirmed that the India Open Super 500 event will be held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, New Delhi from May 11 to 16.
Though the venue was used as an emergency COVID-19 centre in the national capital, the stadium resumed its sporting activities a few weeks back.
The India Open, usually held during the March window, has been deferred to accommodate competitions that were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will now act as the final tournament in the qualifying window for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“With the pandemic situation being beyond control and impacting travel and active play and the prevailing uncertainties, having the last qualifier at home will surely work in the favour of our shuttlers,” Badminton Association of India (BAI) General Secretary, Ajay K Singhania, told the Olympic Channel.
“BAI has already started preparations to put together the 2021 edition in the best possible and safe way,” he said, adding that the event will be held behind closed doors.
Meanwhile, the Olympic qualifying process, which was frozen mid-March, will run till May 2021, much beyond the earlier deadline of April 26. The BWF will consider the ‘Race To Tokyo’ rankings published on May 18, 2021 to determine which shuttlers qualify for the Tokyo Games and what will be their seedings.
“These deadlines have been set due to the uncertain nature of COVID-19 and the extra time needed to conduct tournaments with the COVID-19 safety protocols required,” Thomas Lund, the BWF Secretary-General said.
Unlike in the past, the 2021 season will see competitions being held in clusters as well.
While the season will begin with the Asian leg that includes two Thailand Opens and the BWF World Tour Finals, the badminton caravan will move to Europe in March with Swiss Open Super 300, German Open Super 300 and the All England Championships being the major events.
“We expect to stage a number of tournaments this way to ensure a more feasible tournament programme in 2021,” Thomas Lund said.
“The COVID-19 situation continues to provide a challenging environment in which to run international tournaments, and although the hope is that the COVID-19 vaccine may in time create a world with fewer restrictions, BWF expects that the pandemic will still influence tournament hosting throughout the whole of 2021.”
April and May are expected to be a busy period for shuttlers vying for a place at the Olympics with big-ticket events like Singapore Open Super 500, India Open and the continental championships taking centre stage.