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From R. Vikneswaran
AARHUS (Denmark), Oct 13 -- As Denmark hosts the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals for the first time, it also marks the return of the prestigious Thomas Cup competition to Europe after almost four decades since the 1982 edition was held in England.
The Finals are being held in Denmark’s second-largest city, Aarhus. With an estimated 345,000 population, most places in the city such as shops, train stations, beaches, harbours and forests are within walking distance or a maximum of 15 minutes away by bicycle.
Below are snippets from the 2020 Thomas and Uber Finals, which are being held at the 5,000-capacity Ceres Arena:
COVID: Danes go mask-free
Denmark is one of a few European countries to have lifted most of the COVID-19 restrictions, including the wearing of face masks in public places.
With an estimated 85 per cent of the population having been fully vaccinated and, according to the Danish Health Authority website www.sst.dk, 300 to 600 cases daily, life seems to have returned to normal here as people can be seen walking around the streets without wearing face masks and devoid of any other restrictions, although hand sanitisers are placed in common areas.
At times, one will get strange looks from the locals for wearing face masks while out on the streets or when getting breakfast at the hotel, although it is compulsory to wear face masks at the airport.
There are also very few restrictions on foreigners entering Denmark. With Malaysia categorised in the orange list (other categories are green, yellow and red), Malaysians only need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result and a ‘worthy purpose’ letter to enter the country.
Those who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be required to undergo a free screening test on arrival at the airport and the results are usually ready within a few minutes.
Stringent tournament protocols
Players, coaches and officials involved in the tournament, however, do not enjoy such relaxation as they are required by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to adhere to a set of stringent Safety Protocols and Operating Procedures, which include three days of isolation and saliva tests upon arrival at the hotel.
They also need to undergo another two tests based on their team’s progress in the tournament, apart from being required to stay in the tournament bubble until the last day of the championship.
That means everyone in the tournament bubble, though allowed to go out for a walk, is not permitted to go to the supermarkets and food must be delivered to them at their hotels.
Participants are also required to wear face masks at all times at all places, except during training, matches and while eating and drinking. The entry and exit routes at the venue are labelled green zone and red zone to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.
The green zone is for the players, officials and others who come into close contact with the players, including some media personnel, while the red zone is for spectators and others. Those who do not adhere to the safety protocols risk having their accreditation revoked.
It’s autumn here now and the daytime temperature is about 8-15 degrees Celsius, with occasional rain. It can, however, drop to 3 degrees Celsius at night. So, it’s clearly cold by Malaysian standards.
While Malaysians, who are used to the tropical heat, can feel comfortable inside most facilities, thanks to the indoor heating system, it is a real challenge trying to adapt to the cold breeze once you are outdoors, especially when the wind blows across the Aarhus Bay.
Walk, cycle, repeat
Walking and cycling are the most favourite activities of the locals, thanks to the proximity of most places of interest in Aarhus city.
Aarhus, with its well-planned routes and very few steep roads, is ideal for walking and cycling via dedicated lanes. Although other public transport facilities are easily accessible as well, such as intercity trains, light trains and buses, cycling seems to be the favourite mode of transportation.
In fact, there are even guided bicycle tours on offer, with parking facilities for bicycles widely available around the city.
The local currency is known as Danish Krone (DKK). Although 1 DKK is about RM0.65, the cost of living here is more expensive than in most other European countries, with Denmark ranked the fifth most expensive country in terms of cost of living in 2020.
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