★ Yonex Belgian International 2012

Just got back from a crazy week at Sportoase Leuven where the 8th edition of the Yonex Belgian International Badminton Championships took place. This year marks the 8th edition of the tournament and the 8th year that I’m there as a volunteer. That thought by itself sounds kind of crazy to me. I don’t think I’ve ever done something 8 years in a row. Anyway.

This year’s tournament was going to be bigger than ever before, with over 300 players from 33 countries in the draw, all hotels fully booked and with national television covering the finals live on Sunday.

But first, let’s go back to last year. After the 2011 tournament, my sister and me had an idea: the entrance hall at the venue has a double ceiling that is pretty high and we thought it would be neat to hang badminton shuttles from it. The idea moved to the back of our minds and that’s where it stayed until about a month ago. We (my sister and me) headed to Sportoase on a Saturday morning to check out the situation and to figure out the practical side of things. After that we had to a) get approval from the rest of the organisation team and b) get permission from Sportoase to actually hang them. A meeting and a few phone calls later and those were covered as well. Then came the biggest challenge: find the shuttles and find someone to help us because it was going to be a hell of a lot of work. We kicked things off during the weekend before the tournament: on Saturday morning Liesbet, Nele and myself spray painted 25 square meters of wired fence black and tied fishing wire to about 700 shuttles. On Sunday we got together again to tied the other end of the wires to the frames (we had cut up the fence in pieces of 50cm by 1m and tied 20 shuttles to each). Later that Sunday we picked up another 400 shuttles, bringing the total amount to just over 1100. We got them to Sportoase on Monday and started hanging them on Tuesday morning. That took much longer than expected since the wires had gotten good and well tangled up during transport. But by 3pm, everything was done and it looked great (if I may say so myself).

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Onwards with the actual preparations for the tournament. Tuesday afternoon the badminton courts and all the other stuff arrived. Around 4pm the sound- and light crew arrived as well, they had to set up the lights before we could start doing anything in the hall. On Wednesday morning, the rest of the volunteers arrived and we started the actual preparations. I had a GoPro set up to make a time-lapse of the entire hall build up, here’s the result:

Since the tournament has taken place for 8 years, we have a solid group of volunteers that know everything inside and out and that need little to no direction to get going. A bunch of hard-working people with a can-do attitude, that see what has to be done. And that’s priceless! This year we were missing a couple of those “core values” and had a bunch of new folks on the team and I wasn’t 100% sure about how that would go. Afterwards, I’m glad to say I was proven wrong. I can even say I had a better time this year than last and a couple of the new people are to thank for that. (you know who you are :))

On Thursday we played qualification rounds, on Friday the main draw. During both days I took photos and made several short movie clips. On Friday we also had a group of tournament organisers from other tournaments over to visit our event. They were attending a meeting hosted by Badminton Europe to discuss to future the the BE Challenge Circuit. Our tournament is ranked at the top of the BE circuit when it comes to organisation, venue and prestige so we were very happy (and proud) that Badminton Europe choose to hold their meeting during our event and that we got to show around the other tournament organisers.

On Saturday morning we had quarter finals, until around 14h. Then we changed the hall from 6 courts to 2 courts for the semi finals (time lapse available here :)). In the evening, after the semi’s, we changed the hall to one TV court, with a car from our sponsor, a VIP room and a entry-tunnel through which the players would walk on (made a time-lapse of that as well, watch it here Late night on Saturday evening, early rise on Sunday morning as the TV broadcasting crew was arriving at 7am. Four hours later, with cameras installed, directors on site and music & lights working, it was time for a last rehearsal. When doing live television, it’s very very important that everyone knows what’s to happen when and in which order. We had pretty decent matches in the finals, first 3 matches all went to 3 games, which threw of the schedule a bit but were good to watch and that’s off course what’s most important. During the finals, I was court-side with my camera.

After the finals all the volunteers gathered in the hall to break things down. Courts, carpet, lights, tents, tables, it all had to go. The tournament was over. And off course?. time-lapsed it (can you tell how much I love my GoPro? :)) A couple of people had to leave early and that put a little downer on dinner after things were done (it’s always more fun to finish something with the whole group).

As I finish writing this a week has past, I’m still not caught up on sleep and I’m still not out of the usual post-tournament black hole. After a frantic week of running around and being surrounded by great people, it still feels weird to be dropped back into every day life with things like work, meetings, housekeeping, etc…It’s been a crazy, long, tiring week but I’m glad I was part of it once again. See you all back in 2013 (and hopefully a lot sooner as well :))!

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