Badminton-Players unite behind new charity
BIRMINGHAM, England, March 17 (Reuters) - Room 101 in a hotel in central Birmingham on an overcast morning and a new and possibly unique venture is launched.
Top players from the world of badminton, gathered for last week's annual All England championships, give up their time for a media conference to lend the sport's muscle to a new charity called Solibad.
Brainchild of French photo-journalist Raphael Sachetat, its name in French is Badminton Sans Frontieres, echoing the renowned Medecins Sans Frontieres.
The aim is to pull together human and financial resources to raise funds through the badminton community and beyond to help small-scale projects.
Two are already under way at orphanages in Bali and Kuala Lumpur. Solibad is also engaged with another charity, Peace and Sport, on a project called "1,000 Rackets for Haiti".
This aims to collect badminton equipment around the world to help Haitian youngsters living in survivor camps to overcome their trauma and to resume living together in confidence.
Sachetat, 37, told Reuters on the eve of the Solibad launch: "It's exciting for me and I know the players are excited.
"It's unique I think because it's the first time so many players in one sport and the overall community have come together to support one foundation or one cause.
"I may be wrong but I've not seen that in any other sports. It's usually one star that has his own foundation but everybody coming together from the top stars to the leisure players all for one cause, I think it's unique."
Those lending support at the media launch included former Olympic gold medallist Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, England's doubles supremo Nathan Robertson, former All England women's titleholder Zhou Mi of China and world-ranked number one men's doubles player Koo Kien Keat of Malaysia.
In addition, Pi Hongyan, the Chinese-born woman player who represents France and is world-ranked five, has been involved from the start and is playing a major role.
Others lending backing include Denmark's Jan Jorgensen, Nguyen Tien Minh from Vietnam, Germany's Marc Zwiebler and Dutchwoman Judith Meulendijks.
They and all the others will act as Solibad ambassadors, backing the projects and spreading the word. Other possible projects are being looked at in Vietnam, Brazil, Manila, Madagascar and China.
Sachetat told Reuters: "The other thing which I think that is also quite unique is that we want it to be a joyful thing, to have fun really, so it's a win-win situation."
Sachetat spent some time in the field in Africa when training to be a doctor before, as he puts it, being "kidnapped" by badminton.
For the last 10 years he has followed the international circuit, becoming almost as familiar a face as the players themselves.
Importantly, Sachetat stresses every euro raised will go direct to the projects.
"There's no waste at all," he said. "Coming originally from a big NGO (non-governmental organisation) I know these organisations have to be there because they do a fantastic job.
"But on the other hand when we have a lot of people giving small amounts of money I feel it's a shame that some of that money that's been hard fought for goes into paperwork."
"With us 100 percent of the money goes to the site. I am taking it myself so I know it's going to go there and it's well spent.
"One euro raised, one euro on the ground. All the funds will go directly to our projects."
The new English website (www.solibad.net) publishes information on Solibad resources and highlights action and concrete assistance in the field.
The latest money-raiser is an auction of one of the shirts worn by world number one Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia on the way to his first All England title which he won on Sunday.
Zhou, one of the ambassadors, told the media conference: "My philosophy coincides entirely with that of Solibad."
Fellow ambassador Robertson said: "It's so unique in sport and I feel it is very important that badminton is the first to launch such an initiative."
Sachetat said: "This all brings together my twin passions for badminton and humanitarian work. I am very excited."
Source from Reuters
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