Badminton World Cup11 April, 2016
The Badminton World Cup was a unique event in world badminton in its day. The inaugural event was held in 1981. The World Cup was held annually and was discontinued after its seventeenth edition, which was held in Yogyakarta in August, 1997.
Right from its inception, the World Cup filled a definite niche in the badminton calendar. Although Europe had several established tournaments, as of the early eighties, the Malaysia Open was the only one in
What’s more, although the World Championships had already been played twice, the conflict between the IBF (now the BWF) and the World Badminton Federation (WBF) was not resolved until just a few months before the 1981 Alba World Cup. That meant that Chinese shuttlers had not yet participated in the IBF World Championships or the All England Championships by the time Li Lingwei, Chen Ruizhen, Han Jian, Yang Kesen, and Chen Changjie arrived in
Not just a mini-World Championship
There were several ways in which the World Cup was its own event, and not just a scaled down version of the World Championships. The most obvious was the fact that the World Cup was a professional tournament with prize money. Also, key to the tournament’s success was the partnership between the IBF and the International Management Group (IMG). It was the company’s experience in the field of commercial sport that made the 1981 Alba World Cup a “very professional event…one of the best organised so far”, in the worlds of one player who participated that year.
The format, too, was significantly different from the World Championships. While the Worlds followed a single-elimination knockout format, the World Cup began with round robin groups, from which players would advance to a knockout round. The preliminary group stage made sense given the small field that attended these invitational tournaments.
The 1981 World Cup featured sixteen players in men’s singles, playing round robin preliminaries in four groups, while the women’s singles was contested by thirteen players. Ten years later, the men’s singles draw was the same size but women’s singles had slimmed to twelve and men’s doubles had eight pairs competing while women’s and mixed doubles each had six pairs.
Not just another Open
Nor was the World Cup just like another Open tournament. Of course, the first two editions of the World Cup had no doubles events. But even when doubles was included, from the 1983 edition onwards, the invitational format, as well as the round robin format, distinguished it from the open tournaments.
Open events are also tied to one member association, while the World Cup was to be international in terms of where the tournament was held. It is true that the first seven editions were hosted by Malaysia and Indonesia, two member associations that were already running their own open events; however, later the World Cup moved to countries that did not have established annual badminton tournaments at the time, including Macau, India and Vietnam.
World Cup more than doubles
In 1983, what had been a small invitational tournament with fewer than thirty-two players invited suddenly became a high-profile event with top players invited to compete in all five disciplines. The addition of doubles is what allowed Chinese star Li Lingwei to become the first player to win the IBF World Championships, the World Cup, and later the Grand Prix Finals, all in one calendar year. While Li was able to win the women’s singles titles at the other two events, at the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur that year, she had to leave the singles title to her partner Han Aiping. She teamed up with Han to take the women’s doubles title, though, and that turned out to be her first of an eventual record of seven World Cup titles.
In fact, from its beginnings as the first world event that would see action by the top Chinese shuttlers, the World Cup continued to be an opportunity to see the world’s best play in a prestigious event in the gap years between the World Championships. In the 1981 to 1997 period all but one singles World Champion titled at the World Cup and all but a handful of doubles champions did, too.
World Cup winds down
By the late 1990s, the status of the World Cup had started to wane. The World Championships had become a very prestigious event for players in all five disciplines. Even in men’s singles, which were given precedence in the World Cup, it was the World Championships that produced the true classic final in 1997, when Peter Rasmussen beat Sun Jun, just a few short months before the last World Cup.
Furthermore, the Grand Prix tournaments were growing in both importance and in number. The 1997 Sanyo World Cup in
After eighteen years, the IBF finally decided to discontinue the event.
Everyone involved in the event continued at the top levels of international badminton, though, even after the World Cup ceased to be.
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