Air-conditioning row an uncool distraction at badminton world championships
Chinese tournament organisers say they did not switch off cooling system for men's final
Badminton and controversy are not exactly strangers, but a row involving the air conditioning at the world championships' men's singles final has caused a headache the sport could do without.
The showdown in Guangzhou between home favourite Lin Dan, the four-time champion, and Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei, was overshadowed by the apparent failure of the air conditioning mid-match, fuelling conspiracy theories and possibly contributing to Lee's withdrawal on a stretcher with cramps as he faced match point.
"It was so hot inside and Chong Wei was dehydrated. This led to him suffering cramps," Lee's coach Tey Seu Bock told Malaysian newspaper The Star. "This is not right. The players were suffering. At one point, Chong Wei was struggling to breathe," he added.
The air conditioning at Guangzhou's Tianhe Gymnasium which had been plaguing players at one end of the court, seemed to have been turned off at the start of the second game.
As the temperature rose and sweltering spectators fanned themselves furiously, Lin - who was trailing after the first game - found his range with pinpoint shots in the airless arena.
"Changes in conditions during a match have a huge impact on the outcome," one badminton expert, who did not want to be named, said.
"Throughout the tournament there had been strong drift on the far side of the court, where the wind was blowing from behind and from the side due to the air-conditioning.
"It tended to make players' returns more likely to go long or wide when they played at that end, and they had been adjusting to that all week."
The air conditioning stayed off for the rest of the match and came back on again after it had finished.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) investigated the incident. But in a statement yesterday, the world body said Chinese officials had insisted the air conditioning was not turned off, but was simply set too low.
"The local organising committee has confirmed to the BWF that the air conditioner in the venue was not turned off at any time during the finals, but that the air conditioner was set on low from the beginning of the day," the statement said.
"However, due to the increase in the number of spectators attending on finals day - and, in particular, during the men's singles match - the temperature went up and the venue became hotter."