Boom times as England hosts world elite

London: Despite the wet, grey and chilly weather in Milton Keynes, there is a spring in the step of players and officials alike at England`s National Badminton Centre.

The country is on the brink of an unprecedented spell of top-class, global badminton more than sufficient to dispel any gloom.

It kicks off with the All England tournament in Birmingham this week (March 9-13) followed by the world championships at Wembley in August and the Olympics at the same venue in 2012.

The cornucopia follows Liverpool and Manchester staging major European championships in the last couple of years but for global tastes the best is yet to come.

"I can`t imagine this ever happening again, certainly not in my lifetime," Badminton England (BE) chief executive Adrian Christy told reporters.

The All Englands have long been known as the Wimbledon of badminton and as ever all the big names will be on parade.

The return of top badminton to Wembley when the world championships come to call in the summer adds fresh relish.

"To have the worlds at the Olympic venue is not only a great opportunity and an exciting time for us but also for the athletes, teams, coaches and of course the fans that are going to be coming in August," Christy said.

New Generation

The hope is that English players, without medals at major global events in recent seasons, can rise to the occasion.

Nathan Robertson, mixed doubles runner-up with now retired Gail Emms at the Athens Games back in 2004 and world champion with her in 2006, will retire after the London Olympics, but he sees a new generation coming through and is optimistic.

Still a leading medal hope himself, the 33-year-old told Reuters: "I can see we`ve got a young squad that`s improving.

"We`re still a few steps behind the strongest nations like China but we`ve players in the squad who have had world-class performances and beaten players who are in the top 10 in the world.”

"The performances have been there in the past and those players are definitely improving so it`s just a case of if they`ll get there in time."

Robertson`s playing partner Jenny Wallwork, excited as the big tests draw near, said: "We`ve had some great results in the last six to eight months, beating three of the top four pairs in the world.”

Bureau Report

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