Badminton: Badminton stars wary of being swept-up in riots

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The world's best badminton players have gone about their business cautiously after the nearby England v the Netherlands football international at Wembley on Wednesday was called off because of riots in the streets of the capital.

Though the cancellation happened only because too many police had become occupied with security elsewhere, the emptiness of the football stadium sent ripples through the adjacent world badminton championships.

Wembley Stadium is only two hundred metres from the Wembley Arena which is staging the badminton, which will continue with a somewhat altered atmosphere.

Tine Baun, the twice All-England Open champion from Denmark, said: "I feel safe enough, but it's very close, and when you see on television the main road in Birmingham which we are used to seeing (at the All-England championships) and it's now in chaos, it's very tough to see.

"Hopefully it will go the right way from now and the police will control things. But it's happening too close I think."

The Olympic men's singles champion Lin Dan was in agreement. "So far it's okay but we shouldn't go to the street alone -- we should have company," the Chinese star said via an interpreter.

A similar reaction came from Rajiv Ouseph, the England number one.

"We did hear something close by here, so everyone is cautious," he said. "But I don't think anyone thought about not playing at all.

"Everyone saw it on TV and it's a bad situation. I hope the police sort it out as quickly as they can, and that it will pass without more trouble."

The closest a badminton player came to the trouble was when Peter Gade, the former world number one from Denmark, had an evening out near to the worst of the rioting.

"I went out early and alone in Ealing, and although I didn't feel too unsafe it hurts when you see the riots and see all the people harmed by these things," he said.

"It makes what we are doing really, really small. Nevertheless hopefully things will get under control. I don't feel unsafe here (Wembley). I am just thinking about what I am doing and I'm a bit more careful that's all."

Gade's unusual expedition was something none the Chinese squad would have considered.

"Each of the team leaders told us to make sure we were safe," said Wang Shixian, the world number one women's singles player.

"I watched it on TV but I didn't understand what was happening.

"But I don't think you can say the London 2012 Olympics (in the same Wembley arena) will be unsafe. That's a year away, far too long a time to say anything about it."

Meanwhile the tournament organizers and the England team leaders have been in dialogue with the police and continue to monitor the situation.

England's performance director Jens Grill admitted: "I don't know enough about the riots and how close they are to us, and what the risk is that they may move closer -- or what might happen in this area tonight or another night.

"And I don't know enough to comment on what should be done. However our event team is following it very closely and has been talking with the police.

"We have not felt the need to speak to the players about it. But last night we walked back together, and the players walked back to the hotel in groups - just to be on the safe side."

© 2011 AFP

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