Atop Mount Titlis, at -10 degrees Celsius, steaming mugs of hot chocolate lose steam in minutes. Seven layers of warm clothing feel inadequate. And the wind chills don’t help either. Nevertheless, this Tuesday, four intrepid badminton players — Indians Sai Praneeth and Parupalli Kashyap and Swiss players Karin Suter-Erath and Sabrina Jaquet — warmed up on a makeshift rubber court set up at Titlis, 10,000 feet above sea level.
The players were participating in an exhibition match organised by Swiss Badminton Federation to promote the ongoing Yonex Swiss Open 2019 in Basel and the upcoming World Championship 2019 also in Basel, starting on August 19.
“The idea is to promote the sport in a different environment. Since everybody associates Switzerland with mountains, and Titlis is the most popular, we decided to have this game here,” says Robbert de Kock, president, Swiss Badminton and Council Member of BWF. Alongside the World Championship that will see around 50 countries participating, the Para World Championship will also take place, says de Kock.
Preparations for the outdoor, high-altitude exhibition match began three months ago. Saina Nehwal was among the players to participate at the event but had to drop out at the last moment due to health reasons. Her husband Kashyap filled in for her.
For this showcase match, an outdoor badminton court was constructed. Given the wind speed of around 42 to 60 kilometres per hour it was challenging for the players to keep a rally going. They used two types of shuttles — a regular one that struggled to hold its own against the brutal winds, and a bright pink plastic one (a few grams heavier) designed by the Badminton World Federation for this outdoor event. At one point, the shuttle even stopped mid-air, swirled and went in a different direction. “These are turning winds,” laughs de Kock.
Though the World Championship is five months away, tickets are already selling like hot cakes. “The venue is the St Jakobshalle stadium in Basel. We built 12 courts there for the upcoming games,” says Charles A Keller, president OC World Championships Basel 2019. The venue has a seating capacity of 6,500. To encourage tourists and badminton enthusiasts, the organising body also has ticket and hotel packages on their website. Ticket prices start at about 20 francs per head.
For more details, look up www.basel2019.org
The writer is in Switzerland on the invite of Switzerland Tourism.