Most Indians follow Cricket as their most popular sports – in recent times things have evolved so that we also look at other stars in sports like Badminton, Tennis, Boxing etc. Just got a chance to catch up some Badminton action that was happening in Dubai last week.
The event was hosted at the Hamdan Sports Complex and the highlights were to catch Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth in action. I had heard that the Indian diaspora was turning out in good numbers to cheer their heroes although the field is dominated by Chinese and Japanese players.
My friend was travelling to India so gave me a pass to the Badminton tournament that was underway in Dubai. I was not familiar on how to reach the place and distances run long in Dubai. A trip of 50 to 80 KMs is quite routine and doesn’t take long as well as you zip past in the well-connected city.
My friend told me to take a local bus to a nearby Metro station ‘Mall of Emirates’. Shuttle buses left from the stop every hour to the tournament venue. He introduced me to couple of cute concepts. The buses and Metro can be accessed using a Smart Card called Nol. You just swipe yourself at the start and end of the journey and that is like hassle free travel. The other cool thing is a mobile ap by the transport authority. It shows you real-time availability of the buses on your route so you can avoid spending too much time waiting for your bus to arrive.
The winter is just setting in and the weather is real pleasant. I caught the bus – it was a smooth ride and it wasn’t crowded although it was the weekend. A similar shuttle bus took me to the Hamdan Sports Complex.
On entering the stands one could sense the excitement – Indians had turned up in good numbers to cheer their stars. It was like a carnival – families and friends along with the young kids were settled in well for the occasion. Every possible comfort was there – you had food and drinks. And you bought the long buntings to cheer for your team. The stands were not packed to their capacity but there was a decent crowd that had built up. Large screens showed you live action and replays even if you were sitting a bit away from the scene of action.
The diaspora was in full flow – cheering every point that was hardly fought and won. Cheering up their stars when they were not doing that well. The youngsters too were enthusiastic and seemed to know the nuances of the game.
The day didn’t go our way as our stars lost their matches. But they did put up spirited fights and the outing was an interesting one. Saina in particular fought a tough battle but eventually lost the match. But the crowd hung around for quite a while – the kids were disappointed to see the Indian challenge end but am sure they will follow the rest of the tournament and back the other players who are still in the field. A welcome change from our obsession with the world of Cricket. And Dubai does have world-class infrastructure to promote a variety of sport events including Tennis and Cricket.