By Ami Afriatni
Jakarta: The good old days on court are long gone for Denmark’s badminton great Poul-Erik Hoyer Larsen. However, he ensures his presence is still felt in world badminton after his election as Badminton World Federation president in May 2013.
During his two-day visit to Jakarta, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist joined members of the Olympic Council of Asia to inspect Indonesia’s 2018 Asian Games preparation. Hoyer Larsen also attended the Djarum Superliga press conference and shared memories with his Indonesian counterparts, including Hariyanto Arbi.
He also shared his thoughts during an interview with members of the media.
Q: It’s been almost two years since you took up the BWF presidency. How has it been compared to the days when you were still playing?
A: Certainly it’s different. Physically you’re sitting more in meetings, not being so active, so I’ve put on a bit of weight compared to when I was playing. But being around badminton, for me it’s fantastic, it’s phenomenal. To be able to do something for badminton in this direction, I really enjoy it. I’ve been in the position for almost two years. I feel very privileged to be in the position where, together with the council, we can draw the lines for the future. I’m very much looking forward to the next two years until the next election in 2017.
Q : You’ve been fighting doping and match fixing. With the current case against the world’s number one player, Lee Chong Wei, how do you judge the BWF’s efforts to fight doping?
A : We have to continuously fulfill all areas where the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) is setting their sights. We have to follow on the highest level. In the past, we have not seen so much of that. But possibly there will be a growing need or a growing demand really focusing on doping. Match fixing, I think, is one of the areas that is a threat for sports in general.
Q : The BWF has launched its ‘Shuttle Time’ program. How is that going?
A : The only thing I can say is thousand of children have had rackets in their hands. The whole philosophy is that more young people have rackets in their hands, more children are potentially interested in trying to learn how to hit properly, how to smash, how to backhand, develop their skills, that every child actually has the opportunity.
The more children are trying, the better for badminton. I think by the time the program entered schools, it’s been received positively by the school community; the ministries of sports, they regard this project highly. I do believe in 2020 we will reach our goal to reach out to all our member federations.
Q : How do you see the future for badminton, specifically its prospects of remaining in the Olympics? What are the BWF’s efforts to promote the sport more widely?
A : One thing for me to say is that we are in the entertainment business. We need to show entertainment. We need to attract the audience so that they will follow what is happening on court. That needs to be a strong connection between the on-court game and how spectators actually feel about the game going on down on the court. We need to invent areas where we attract that connection, much stronger than we do today. We are good in delivering. We have a great sport but the atmosphere in the venue is very important. I’m addressing this also for a lot of other tournaments. What I feel about spectators here in Indonesia is they have the passion. They shout, they support, they do whatever they can to create the atmosphere. I urge everyone to come and visit the Indonesia Open or the World Championships coming in August. Because it’s what we actually need for the future. We need to learn from the Indonesia Open, from Indonesian people. We also need to learn from ourselves to make badminton even better. We are slowly moving. Sometimes you need to change to put forward to the annual meeting. Sometimes the process is very long. Definitely we have to accept that we are competing with other sports. We need to adapt to a competitive world. I think we also may need to change in the next couple of years. If we can keep badminton in the Olympics forever, that would be very nice. But there is an election and some sports are being kicked out while some others are kept in. In 2020, maybe they will reduce the events to keep the numbers of sports. I think in the future there is a strong possibility once we are in, we will stay in for the next 20 years. We are now in the C group of Olympic sports. We were in D group. It means the IOC has recognized us as better than last year.