New Delhi: The second edition of India Open, the year’s first Super 750 event on the BWF World Tour calender, has proved to be one of the most well organised and celebrated sports events in Indian sports history.
India Open started way back in 2008, but it has never been as well embraced by fans as it was in 2024 despite India’s rapid rise in international badminton.
Fans are the heart of a sporting event, without their lively presence even an evenly contested duel looks pale as it misses the huge applauds.
Hence, the fans were the main reason behind the success of the event, they went all-out to cheer for not only the Indian players but the artistic players who thronged the year’s second World Tour event at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall in the national capital of India.
In the last couple of events hosted by Badmintion Association of India (BAI) were marred by controversies and criticism due to unwarranted series of events like a player waiting for hours for allotment for her hotel room, Delhi cab driver looting the player and bird poops leaving players annoyed in Lucknow. Some of them even questioned India’s organisational capacity.
But this time, at the country’s most important badminton event, India Open, BAI, not taking fans for granted, left no stone unturned in proving its mettle as a gentle host to give fans and players a feel good factor. It took initiatives to promote the tournament and spread awareness in the managemental front.
Before the tournament, there were quite a many fans who demanded shifting the event from New Delhi to a south Indian city as the previous editions of India Open received a lukewarm response with only handful of crowd hitting the venue to watch matches live from the stands.
The last time when India hosted the India Open, there were embarrassing issue in streaming the tournament as the sound quality and colour combination was not on the spot. But this time, as BAI did things diligently, the tournament poised nicely and the fans watching games from their households or offices were also happy.
Powered crowd support
The cheers, shouts and claps were echoing the whole arena whenever the players were engaging in longer rallies, and the thwack of smashes made the atmosphere buzzing. The environment in the arena was as beautiful as in any big badminton tournaments played in Malaysia, Indonesia, China or Japan.
Some fans travelled from Bhopal, Rajasthan and down south to catch glimpses of the brilliance of elite shuttlers who descended in New Delhi in large numbers. While there were placards for Indian stars Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, there were no dearth of cheers for artistic beauty of Tai Tzu Ying, the player who produces magical moves with her racquet.
In the initial few days, school children, full on enthusiasm, filled the venue to enlighten this biggest World Tour event in India.
From quarterfinals onwards the matches went beyond 10:30 or 11:00 PM at night, but the crowd were so dedicated to the game that they beat the chill of Delhi winter to enjoy the show of top notch badminton.
The crowd went crazy at the glimpse of their favourite players Satwik and Chirag playing the last match of the day at late evening.
There was an instance when a 10-year-old girl forced her father to stay late and pleaded, “I want to stay here till the SATCHI ( Satwik-Chirag) match, I like them play, so want to watch them.”
Equal support for other countries
One of the interesting facets of the crowd at the India Open was that they were not biased. They dedicated same amount of applause for foreign players, especially for the players like Jonatan Christie, Lee Zii Jia and Shi Yuqi, as they did for their Indian players.
The crowd went berserk when Lee Zii Jia came out for an autograph session; the fans joined a long queue to get an autograph signed by the Malaysian star.
The craze for Tai Tzu Ying was also quite amazing to watch in the stadium which helped her in lifting the title at India Open for the first time. One of her fans came to Delhi travelling 800km and beating the tiredness of travelling in a delayed train to meet her favourite player and watch her play.
The fan said, “I am her to witness my Dr Tai play, and feel the magic of my queen.”
The Final Showdown
The final day of the India Open offered sheer delight to the fans; the ambience and arrangements were amazing too. A guard of honour ceremony was organised for the players at the entrance, the sparkling light was something to watch out for and the final thing was a packed and patient crowd on a chilled Sunday.
Making crowd jubilant was the Indian men’s doubles stars Satwik and Chirag. The duo entered the arena as the freshly crowned world no.1 after they beat their archnemisis Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in the semifinals.
Before the final, the KD Jadhav arena was fully packed, and it chanted the world no.1 Indian pair on their arrival.
Satwik-Chirag, however, could not win the India Open title as they went down to Kang Hyuk Min and Seo Seung Jae. But the crowd fully appreciated their effort and cheered for them even when they were trailing.
After the match, Satwik and Chirag said, “The crowd was very amazing and they push us to take the match close even when we were trailing behind 5 points at the mid-game.”