Badminton can improve people-to-people ties between India and China: Diplomat at India Open

One of the takeaways for Wang Tong, a First Secretary at the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, who was at the KD Jadhav arena to catch the India Open badminton live, was watching Indian fans cheer for Chinese players. Tong, a recreational player on the embassy court, believes the fan following of badminton players on both sides can help people of India and China bond over drop shots, smashes and scorelines.

“We see badminton as something that can help improve people to people ties. It’s been nice to see Indian fans cheer for some Chinese stars, and there are these massive posters of them (of Indian and Chinese players) around the stadium. We met an Indian couple that said they appreciated our players,” Tong said.

Inviting some of India’s top players and also a media contingent to play on the court in the embassy could be a small step in badminton diplomacy between the two countries involved in a tense border dispute. “The embassy has a lot of young diplomats and we play badminton at our indoor court that we have. We would love to host India’s top names and media once on our courts and organise a tournament,” he said.

India’s rising reputation, puts the badminton Super 750, a higher grade tournament, as the place to be for networking.

“Badminton events are also good to meet up with Indian dignitaries,” Tong added.

A contingent from the embassy would troop in to back their shuttlers while acknowledging India’s gradually growing stature. An unprecedented nine arena stands of the stadium filled up to watch finals featuring no Indians, but the biggest contemporary names on the global Tour.

“We’re here to celebrate China’s entry into badminton finals. It’s good to watch India successfully hosting a big event, and see such enthusiastic crowds who love the sport. India has so many top stars. Sindhu has done so well. Now Lakshya Sen. Srikanth was a very powerful player,” Tong said.

“There are around 20 of us diplomats here rooting for China. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the best shuttlers from around the world,” he added.

Tong also is hopeful that the Sudirman Cup to be held in Suzhou, China, in May will go ahead despite the latest COVID outbreak.

There were doubts if China, after reopening the country post its zero COVID regulations, would be able to host the event.

“The foreigners can come in without quarantine and activities have resumed,” Tong informed.

On the final day of the India Open, Tong was keeping tabs on upcoming talents and had the young, unheralded men’s doubles pairing of Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang pegged as the ‘dark horses’ against the World Champion from Malaysia, Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi .

Joining in the typical chants of ‘Jia You’ – (“Come on or like, Rule for China”) – Tong would say ahead of the finals that the dark horses in men’s doubles were the ones they were banking on for the title. Winners of Japan Open, the young always-laughing pair are the ones China is placing hopes on to start a new domination dynasty, after ceding that to Indonesians last few years.

Tong went home happy after the Chinese pair beat Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi in three games and seeing first-hand how badminton can foster friendships between fan groups.

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