WELLINGTON: The cancellation of the 2020 badminton junior world championships in Auckland highlighted the complexities of trying to organise sporting events during the COVID-19 pandemic, Badminton New Zealand's chief executive said on Thursday.
The World Badminton Federation (BWF) and Badminton New Zealand (BNZ) announced the cancellation of the Jan. 11-24 event, which had originally been scheduled for Sept. 28-Oct. 11 before being moved to early next year due to the pandemic.
They were unable to be delayed further with the 2021 event scheduled for Sept-Oct in China.
"We had to make the decision around the health of the players coming into New Zealand and also of the staff and volunteers," BNZ Chief Executive Joe Hitchcock told Reuters.
Around 400 players had been expected to arrive for the tournament with that number rising by at least another 200-300 people with coaches, support staff and BWF officials flying in, he said.
All would have had to spend 14-days in isolation upon arrival, the cost of which would have been met by organisers.
"There is just another whole level of complexity there," Hitchcock said, adding that upcoming cricket tours of New Zealand and the recent rugby tests against Australia were on a smaller scale.
Another factor complicating the issue was the limited number of flights to New Zealand, with the country closing its borders to all but returning citizens and permanent residents.
Hitchcock said it was likely the teams would have received exemptions, although they still needed government approval.
"The government has been fantastic," Hitchcock said. "But in the end we wanted to run an event to the scale that we know it had the potential to be and we couldn't do that."
The pandemic would also have created issues for teams when they flew home with many entering another isolation period, while foreign-born coaches might not be allowed to return, he said.
The BWF said New Zealand would now host the 2024 event.
"To press pause and understand we still have the opportunity in 2024 is great," Hitchcock said.
"We're a small sport (in New Zealand), so to know we still get that opportunity is really cool."
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)