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Tales Of A Travelling Umpire – Sudirman Cup 2017

Published on Monday, June 05, 2017

Tales Of A Travelling Umpire – Sudirman Cup 2017

The Gold Coast, Australia

A quick train journey from Lincoln Central to Heathrow Terminal 5 saw me checking in for a long journey to the Gold Coast in Australia via Hong Kong. While the first leg was completely uneventful, the journey from Hong Kong to the Gold Coast was not. There were bouts of turbulence on this journey but more worryingly there was an announcement over the intercom asking “if there is a doctor or nurse on board, could they please make themselves known to the cabin crew”. It wasn’t until we landed that we realised the severity of the situation – an ambulance and paramedics were waiting to board as soon as the doors were open.

Disappointingly, when we landed at 07.10, we found it was raining – not what I’d expected for the Gold Coast.

The journey through immigration and baggage collection were quite painless and quick. Once in the arrivals lounge, I was immediately greeted by the welcoming committee for Badminton Australia. About half an hour later, a coach transferred approximately thirty of us to our respective hotels. The passengers included both the Macau team and the Hong Kong China team. This took about 45 minutes.

On arrival at the hotel (Mantra On View), I spotted two good friends – Jiten Bhatt (AUS) and Brian Woodhall. We had a quick chat and catch up before I checked in.

Knowing that I was going to get little time to sightsee once the tournament started, I went for a stroll down the beach and dipped my feet in the warm Pacific Ocean. The sand was so fine and so soft.

Friday evening saw us all head off to the Opening Gala Celebrations. We were treated to a meal and many speeches and performances by a number of acts including a children’s choir singing songs in the local ancient language. Also at the Gala Celebration, I had the great pleasure to see Malcolm Banham receive the Distinguished Service Award from BWF for his many years’ service as an umpire and now as the head of the umpire assessors team.

Saturday was a leisurely day with the umpires briefing at 16.00 hrs. Once over, we all headed back to the hotel and agreed to meet up in the evening for a meal together before the start of the tournament.

Sunday saw day one of the competition. Unlike most tournaments, this one didn’t start until 11.00 hrs which meant breakfast was a lot more leisurely than normal. Session 1 saw me on the TV Court (and IRS) for the match between China and Hong Kong China. For session 2, I had the tie between Slovakia and Tahiti. Monday saw me have the tie between Macau China and Guam in session 1. Session 2 was more challenging with the tie between Thailand and Hong Kong China on court 1 (once again, the court with TV and IRS on it). Day three (Tuesday) and I had the ties between Malaysia and Germany (court 1) in session 1 and Singapore and USA in session 2. Day four (Wednesday) and I had the ties between China and Thailand (court 2) for session 1 and Japan and Malaysia (court 1) in session 2. Day 5 (Thursday) brought the tie between Singapore and Australia in session 1. I was given the second session off so I headed back to the hotel and then went for a walk and a coffee with Freek Cox (NED). In the evening, I went for a meal at the Hogs Breath Cafe with Daniel Law (HKG – my roommate), Freek, Mike Wright, Trish Gubb (NZL), Richard Bramley (NZL), Sven Serre (BEL), and Henrik Boas (DEN).

On Friday, we were all taken to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary first thing in the morning to see koalas, kangaroos and other animals. At 10.30 hrs we were all ferried to the hall in time for our briefing and play to start. Session 1 was relaxing for me as I only had an IRS duty to do. Session 2 handed me the tie between New Zealand and Austria.

Saturday morning we arrived at the hall at 08.30 hrs for Malcolm’s workshop. We mainly covered presentational things with a few scenarios as well. After the workshop, we had a team photo in the hall. As I was not on duty at all today, I went back to the hotel, having a meal on the way. I got back to the hotel at 20.00 hrs and just chilled out in the room on my own.

Sunday was finals day. It was China vs Korea. I watched the first match in the hall but had to go back to the hotel after that as I had tried checking in online for my flights home only to find that one of my flights had been cancelled – yes, I’d become a victim of BA’s IT problems on the 27th May! No amount of phone calls got me through to BA to find out what was happening. So I enjoyed the rest of the day the best I could.

When I woke up on Monday morning to catch my flight from Gold Coast to Sydney, I found I’d received an e-mail from BA with a new itinerary for my homeward trip. It involved flying via Los Angeles, New York, and then to Gatwick – Arriving on Wednesday 31st May at lunchtime as opposed to my original arrival of Tuesday morning at 05.05 hrs.

Daniel (my roommate) was picked up at 04.50 hrs this morning. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t picked up until 08.50 hrs which meant I could grab some breakfast before the long journey back home.

And what an eventful journey home – the bus driver shed half the cases out of his trailer (including mine) and had to stop and pick them up – he also had to retrace his steps for one of the cases! Finally, when we got to the airport, I was in the queue behind the whole Chinese team – they took forever to check in. Once checked in, the flight from the Gold Coast to Sydney went fine. BUT, on arrival at Sydney airport I was informed that BA have no desk there!!!! So, I spoke to a lovely lady at Quantas who contacted BA and organised a flight on Qatar Air from Sydney to Doha and then Doha to Heathrow. It meant I had a six and a half hour wait in the airport but it was better than the initial itinerary that I was given that didn’t even leave until Tuesday!

Once I was finally on the plane to Doha, things went well, in fact we were actually a few minutes early landing – which was a help to me because I’d got 40 minutes between getting off the plane and my gate closing for the second leg of my flight. Seeing the queues at security, I thought I’d got no chance but I talked to the man at the first/business class security queue and he kindly let me through as it was such a short turn around.

I made it to my gate with five minutes to spare. Once on the plane, it was another uneventful flight. We even landed half an hour early in Heathrow. Even getting out of the airport was a doddle – which is not the same as trying to get a train back to Kings Cross! The first one was cancelled when we were all sat in it. It then became the next one but unfortunately, it then broke down so we had to switch platforms and wait another 20 minutes for another train to appear. When I finally got to Kings Cross, it was too late for the flyer direct to Lincoln so I had to wait for the 15.08 train to Newark Northgate and then change for Lincoln. I finally arrived in Lincoln at 17.15 hrs and got a taxi back home.

To say it was a relief to get home is an understatement!

My total number of duties for the week was 14 umpire duties, 10 service judge duties, and 1 IRS duty.

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Author: Paul Buffham

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