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China’s Hangzhou to host badminton World Tour Finals for four years

Shanghai (AFP) – International badminton’s flagship event, the World Tour Finals, will be held in Hangzhou for the next four years, a further sign the post-Covid revival of major sports events in China is gathering pace.

Badminton is hugely popular in the country and the national team is a dominant force in the global arena, having recently retained the mixed-team Sudirman Cup for a record 13th time.

The world’s second largest economy is seen as a key area for the sport’s growth and development.

The Badminton World Federation has previously talked of “ever-growing numbers of both competitive and recreational-level players” and a sky-rocketing fanbase.

This year’s season-ending BWF World Tour Finals will be held from December 13-17, the federation announced late Wednesday. The finals were last held in China in 2019, in Guangzhou.

Hangzhou, an eastern Chinese city 160 kilometres from Shanghai, will next month host the pandemic-delayed Asian Games, an Olympic-sized multisport event originally due to have been staged a year ago.

“Hangzhou with its superb sporting infrastructure and experience in staging elite international events is an ideal host for our finals,” said BWF secretary general Thomas Lund.

With the exception of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which took place in a zero-Covid “bubble”, almost all global sport ground to a halt in China after the pandemic emerged there in late 2019.

In May, badminton’s Sudirman Cup became the first major international sporting event to be held in China after the country’s tough zero-Covid policies were ditched at the end of last year.

Since then, world sport organisations have shown themselves eager to relaunch lucrative tournaments across the country.

Top-class tennis makes a full-throttle return to China from September, with the women’s WTA Tour staging six tournaments after reversing a boycott initiated because of concerns about the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai.

The men’s ATP Tour will return with four events, culminating in October’s prestigious Shanghai Masters featuring the world’s top players.

Diamond League athletics, international golf and snooker events are all scheduled to return to China this year.

Formula One’s Chinese Grand Prix, in Shanghai, will return in April 2024 after last being staged in 2019.

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