|White Lions Badminton Club, 2011|
Friday was Quarter Finals day, when there were still some British players in contention. Two pairs made it to the quarter finals of the mixed doubles, but both were knocked out. Like cricket, rugby and other games devised by Brits, players from other parts of the world now beat us into the ground - in the case of badminton it's Far Eastern and South East Asian countries. China, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia were represented in the finals, along with a lone pair from Denmark, the only European country apart from the UK that produces world class players. China tends to dominate - in the last 17 years, China has won the Women's Doubles in Birmingham in all but two years, when it was Korea that won. Nobody but China or Korea has won the Women's Doubles in this competition since 1981.
The event was definitely brought alive by plenty of representatives from those countries being present to support their teams, especially Malaysia and China. The Malaysians brought drums! The Men's Singles contenders have superstar status in their own countries and must find the anonymity of English streets a bit of a relief. The two men in the final produced interesting chants from my disinterested point of view, one having a name with three syllables equally emphasised within four beats (Lee! Chong! Wei! [rest]) and the other with just two, accompanied by three claps (Lin! Dan! [cha-cha cha]). Contrapuntal chanting from the crowd. Made me wonder about other people - Mr A's name has four syllables, which would work well with a football-style dotted rhythm, but my own name has three unequal syllables, so the emphasis would have to be iambic or something complicated. Funny what you think about when you spend six hours among strangers in a large stadium on a Sunday afternoon.
On Friday and Saturday one of my badminton mates was there too, and on Friday we sat together seeing as it wasn't full enough for ticket-holders to be filling every seat. I'd booked my tickets jolly early and had a fine view; she'd booked tickets without a very good view via Groupon for hardly any money but sat with me anyway (clearly, she got the better deal). We discussed many things as we sat watching, including the criteria for whom you support during a match. Obviously Brits are at the top of the list, followed by other Europeans, especially Danes. After that it is a complex formula that takes into account whether you've been to the country, played badminton on the street with the natives (she's done that, not me), whether the players are attractive, what they are wearing, how old they are (veterans often get my vote) and whether they play for China (they have enough advantages without our support).
On Saturday and Sunday I was surrounded by members of an Irish badminton club, who'd brought an Irish flag which they put on display throughout despite there being no Irish players in the competition at all. They conformed to every Irish stereotype, including the flag, the heavy drinking, the 'crac', the lack of inhibition and the catchphrases ("JAYsus would ya look at him!"). Every now and then they would randomly shout "Come on Ireland!" to no-one in particular.
Apparently, the weather over the weekend was positively balmy. I didn't see any of it.