Abby Kumar, chair of Badminton Wycombe Performance Centre, which he set up in 2009, travelled to the BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals to oversee line judging at the prestigious year-end event. Here, he describes his week in the emirate.
I arrived in Dubai on Saturday and met up with Jaffer Ebrahim, the BWF Dubai Project Coordinator, and James Varghese, the local line judge rep, to discuss preparations for training the local line judges.
Sunday - time for sightseeing, including a trip up the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, at 2700 feet high and 160 floors. The hard work starts at 5.00 pm at a local school where the local line judges have gathered for their first training course. We finish at 9.00 pm, then off to an Indian meal with James.
Monday - I have time in the morning to do a boat trip around Dubai harbour and the old city. Back on duty at 1.00 pm at the Hamdan Sports Complex where I meet the local group to collect accreditation and then have a training and orientation session. This is an amazing new sports facility, about 30 minutes out of the city. As the court layout is still being finalised, I cannot practice on court procedures with the line judges. In the evening I attend the welcome dinner hosted by the Dubai Sports Council. This is at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort on Jumeirah Beach, and all the dignitaries are there, from BWF and the Dubai Sports Council.
Tuesday - an important day. I meet Tournament Director Abigail Darke and Referee Isabelle Jobard at Hamdan in order to discuss the court layout, camera positions, line judge court positions etc. I also meet the 10 international line judges selected for the event, including England's Neil Bulcock. The court area is a jumble of cables, cameras, "A" boards and chairs. The cameras are where the line judges chairs should be! Long discussions ensue on how we reposition the cameras, tidy up the cabling, position the line judge chairs, and finalise entry and exit procedures. Darren Parks is also involved in the discussions, and we finally get things right by about 8.00 pm! Time for another Indian meal with James.
Wednesday - it's the start of the tournament, at last! The playing schedule for the first 3 days is extremely long, play starting at 9.00 am and not ending until 11.00 pm. I have to be there by 8.00 am to ensure that all the line judges were briefed on their duties and are ready to go on time. Because the players are so evenly matched, being the top 8 in the world, all the matches are long, thus adding to the work load. By late evening we are all beginning to feel very tired. The fact that officials have to make a long trek to the other end of the arena for lunch and dinner does not help. I ask Tournament Director Abigail to supply food and drink to the officials lounge for the following days and she agrees. Gabby and Chris lose very narrowly to Ko and Kim of Korea in the first of three group matches.
Thursday and Friday - early starts again and very long days. Thankfully the local line judges are brilliantly supportive and hard working, as are the 10 internationals. My deputy James is an absolute gem, and together we keep the show going. Hot food is brought to our lounge twice a day, and there is tea, coffee, fruit and pastry on tap all day long. This improves morale no end, and we are all able to work much more efficiently. Gabby and Chris are beaten by Zhang and Zhao of China on Thursday but beat Fuchs and Michels of Germany in straight games on Friday.
Saturday – semi-finals day. A lie in at last! I sleep till 9 am as I don't have to be in the arena until 12 pm. I get in before 12 pm anyway as I want to meet James and organise the rota for the day and also liaise with Referee Isabelle. Gabby and Chris have got through to the semis and they are second match on. I find some time to watch them, but with Gabby suffering from a chest infection, they lose quite badly. Play ends reasonably early at about 9.00 pm, but we are too tired to do much afterwards.
Sunday - finals day. Play starts at 2.30 pm but I get to the arena by 1 pm, again to see James, organise the teams and give a briefing so that everyone knows what they have to do. I also talk to Referee Isabelle and the TV people so that we are all clear as to the court procedures and presentation ceremonies. The local line judges are all very excited at being involved in finals that have the best players in the world. The international line judges, who have officiated at this level before, reassure their local counterparts that they should relax and enjoy the occasion. The afternoon goes off very well indeed, the line judges earning high praise from the Referee, umpires and from BWF. It's highly satisfying for me that we should have come so far in such a short time. Play finishes by about 7 pm and it's time now to say goodbye to all the friends that we made in the last few days. The international line judges and I head off to our hotel to change and have a relaxed dinner on the Dubai waterfront.
Monday - my flight is not till the late afternoon, so I head off for another spot of sightseeing before having lunch and then getting ready for departure. I have some time to reflect on what has been a great event, wonderfully organised with all the best facilities for the officials, held in a magnificent arena, the Hamdan Sports Complex. And for me, the satisfaction of a job well done.
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