Badminton chiefs are planning to set up a “closed loop” system for 500 people as they look to bring the Hong Kong Open back following two years of cancellations during the pandemic. A safety plan for the event, which is being targeted for November and would include overseas players and local staff, has been submitted to authorities for approval, with preparations to begin if organisers are given the go-ahead. The proposal is similar to that submitted by the Hong Kong Rugby Union for the city’s flagship sporting event, the Hong Kong Sevens, which is also being targeted for a long-awaited return in November. “Under the current requirements, overseas visitors will be required to go through a seven-day hotel quarantine ahead of the event which we think no players will be willing to do that, especially after most of the Western countries have already reopened with no travel restrictions,” Badminton Association chairman Tong Wai-lun said. “What we can do is to set up a safety bubble to accommodate all these overseas players so that they do not need the quarantine. Of course, we have to do this for local staff members who are involved in the tournament. “We know these safety measures will incur large financial implication but we have missed the tournament for the last two years because of the pandemic and are eager to bring it back this time to treat our fans to top-class badminton.” Tong said the safety measures will require all people involved to stay at a designated hotel with strict point-to-point transport to the playing venue. They will not be allowed to have contact with the local community, and overseas visitors will have to undergo regular PCR testing upon their arrival until they leave Hong Kong. September Asian badminton events cancelled due to pandemic “We have estimated there will be around 350 players and related personnel from overseas and also over 100 staff members from the local organising committee,” Tong said. “We therefore plan to set up the bubble for 500 people and will start negotiating with hotels after we obtain the green light.” The official said he was hopeful changes will be made to existing social distancing measures so that the closed loop system will not be necessary. “We can only plan according to the existing requirements but will make adaptations if there is any change of the policy,” Tong said. “Setting up a safety bubble for such a large number of people is very expensive. We may have to solicit more sponsorships or identify additional revenues such as increasing ticket prices, and therefore it would be better if we do not have to do it. “There are still four months to go before the tournament starts and it is difficult to predict the pandemic situation.” According to the Badminton World Federation calendar, the 2022 Hong Kong Open will take place at Hung Hom Coliseum over November 8-13, the week after the Macau Open. Tight restrictions are still in place in Macau, however, because of the latest wave of Covid-19 infections. When the Cycling Association staged the track Nations Cup last year, it also introduced a closed loop for over 100 overseas riders plus local staff members. It was reported the governing body spent an extra over HK$1 million on the extra safety measures. Hong Kong last hosted its Super 500 tournament in 2019 when home sensation Lee Cheuk-yiu beat favourite Viktor Axelsen of Denmark on his way of winning the title. The women’s title was won by Chen Yufei of China, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic champion. But the entire tournament was conducted amid a backdrop of social unrest, with anti-government protests rocking the city, and organisers had to close all entrances midway through the final day when severe altercations broke out between police and demonstrators in the nearby Polytechnic University. Meanwhile, Hong Kong mixed doubles pair Reginald Lee Chun-hei and Ng Tsz-yau have seen their world ranking jump 16 places to No 55, following their victory in last week’s Taipei Open. Ng’s women’s doubles ranking with Tsang Hiu-yan also improved by 30 places, with the Taipei Open champions now 77th in the world.