Bird flu hits badminton!

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Bird flu hits badminton!
8 Feb, 2008, 0000 hrs IST, TNN

There is never a shortage of excuses for India’s sub-standard performance in international sporting events. Two decades ago, the then PM Rajiv Gandhi wondered why the country had sent a huge contingent to the 1986 Asian Games when India returned with just five gold medals, four of them courtesy P T Usha!

The excuses offered for poor performances were bizarre, like that the wrestlers were reportedly demoralised because they had to sleep on the floor while the officials accompanying them occupied their beds in the games’ village.

Now we are told that bird flu could affect India’s performance in international badminton in the Thomas Cup (for men) and Uber Cup (for women)! And this despite no Indian player coming down with anything remotely resembling bird flu over the last few weeks!

What has happened is that an acute shortage of quality shuttlecocks has forced the cancellation of the training camp being organised by the Badminton Association of India (BAI) ahead of the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup. The training camp was scheduled to commence on February 7.

With locally-manufactured shuttlecocks not being up to the mark, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) would import them from China where they are made from goose feathers. The BAI says it had asked the SAI six weeks ago to import shuttlecocks for the camp.

SAI says it had passed on the request to the Union sports ministry. Since the imported shuttlecocks are made from goose feathers, the delay in sourcing them is attributed to the Union agriculture ministry’s apprehensions of bird flu. Such fears are unwarranted since the shuttlecocks are chemically treated.

However, that hasn’t stopped the training camp from being cancelled while the BAI, SAI and sports ministry continue to play ‘shuttlecock’ with the issue! That too just six months ahead of the Beijing Olympics where badminton is one of the events!

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