Olympics and Badminton

Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to the Olympics, not just to watch some amazing badminton games, but because it was an opportunity for badminton to get a little international press and attention.

For the first time in history, America had team members qualify for every single event, sending a whopping SEVEN players to the Olympics. And all sports get a little media coverage during the Olympics so I was looking forward to the articles.

I found a few good ones. We love the “scrappy underdog” stories and of course badminton is no different. Like this New York Times article describing Phillip Chew fulfilling the dreams of his immigrant father. Or this Esquire article with the greatest title: How America’s Top Badminton Player Mastered the Coolest Olympic Sport You’re Not Watching. And I actually enjoyed this article from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press about female badminton player Paula Lynn Obanana.

But that’s where the good press stopped. USA badminton knows the sport isn’t cool, and yet it is almost like they are sabotaging themselves. They released short interviews with all their players that included such “hard hitting” questions like:

Q: What are you most looking forward to about Rio (off the court)?

A: The Olympic experience.

And

Q: What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

A: Too many wise people in my life, there isn’t just one I can pick.

And

Q: What are you most looking forward to about Rio (off the court)?

A: Seeing all different types of athletes from across the world.

Those were taken from three different interviews, from three different players. You can clearly see they asked not only the lamest questions, but the players answered in the lamest way. Come on guys! As the American Olympians you need to give a bit more than that! (To see the interviews in all their boring-ness, head over to the USA Badminton website.)

Also, the “official” picture from USA badminton was this. Seriously?! They couldn’t be just a teeny, tiny bit more creative?!

An Olympic team or a group of people waiting at the DMV? It's hard to tell...

An Olympic team or a group of people waiting at the DMV? It’s hard to tell…

 

But probably the most watched piece of coverage was this Jimmy Fallon sketch. He had a bunch of total poindexters dressed in old tyme tennis clothes doing a nerdy dance about how they are the Olympic badminton team. Sadly, I’m guessing most Americans actually believed it. (P.S. There is no “International Badminton Society,” the international organization is called BWF–Badminton World Federation.)

Meanwhile, what’s the Olympic badminton like in China? A place where it is respected, widely watched and has a chance of winning a gold? It’s pretty big! Everyone is watching it, even my students and other friends who don’t play badminton, and Lin Dan, the two time gold medalist and contender this year, is a household name like Micheal Phelps in America.

But I’m not a common person, I’m a motherfucking badminton playa’ and every night I have been playing badminton until 11pm. Because of the time change, badminton games are on in the evening and while we play, we watch.

We watch using mobile phones or ipads since the courts don't have a TV.

We watch using mobile phones or ipads since the courts don’t have a TV.

Olympic badminton in china

The knee on the left part of the picture is my coach. I like watching with him because he talks about the technique and what the players should and shouldn’t do.

We continue to play as the games continue and those watching will periodically yell out the score so the rest of us know.

We continue to play as the games continue and those watching will periodically yell out the score so the rest of us know.

But last night, all game play stopped when Lin Dan (the two time Olympic medalist and most famous player in China) was close to losing the match against an Indian player. They had each won one game and Lin Dan was down a few points. My coach grabbed his computer and we all watched the last few points where Lin Dan pulled off a narrow victory much to everyones joy. As soon as that game finished we all headed back out to the courts to keep playing.

But last night, all game play stopped when Lin Dan (the two time Olympic medalist and most famous player in China) was close to losing the match against an Indian player. They had each won one game and Lin Dan was down a few points. My coach grabbed his computer and we all watched the last few points where Lin Dan pulled off a narrow victory much to everyone’s joy. As soon as that game finished we all headed back out to the courts to keep playing.

This Friday is the men’s singles semi-final which will feature Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. I think that is the most highly anticipated match of the Olympics even though it is just the semi-finals and not the gold medal match. I have a feeling all of us will stop playing at 7:30pm (Beijing time) when the game starts.

So while American media coverage has been terrible (which I’m not so surprised about) at least I live in China where it is popular and respected. Just another reason I’m happy to live here.

There are just a few days of Olympic badminton left (mixed doubles medals have already been awarded) so if you want to watch, better get on it now!

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