** This NEW SHUTTLENWS REPORT is presented by badminton world champions YANG YANG (1987 and 1989) and ZHAO JIAN HUA (1991) and by YANG YANG BADMINTON PRODUCTS **

November 18, 1997 (NEW SHUTTLENWS) - Sixty-four nations have signed up for the qualifying stages of the 1998 world men's and women's badminton team championships, more widely known to badminton fans as the Thomas and Uber Cups competition. The championships are to be held in May of 1998 in Hong Kong with the qualifying stages being played in February in Sandefjord, Norway and in Manila, Philippines.

Two nations, Indonesia and Hong Kong, are already guaranteed spots in the finals of the twin championships and do not have to go through the qualifying competition. Indonesia, winner of both Cups in 1996, is guaranteed a berth as the defending champions, while Hong Kong has their spot due to their being the host of the finals.

The qualifying competition in Sandefjord will be in four stages: a first stage which is a round-robin within seven or eigth groups of four to five of the teams from the lesser-rated nations, a second stage which is also a round-robin within four groups made up of the seeded nations and the group winners from the first stage, a third stage which is a playdown between the winners of the four groups, and lastly a fourth stage where the winners of the third stage playoff matches battle for first and second place rankings and the losers play for the third and last finals berth.

The qualifying competition in Manila will have the same four stages as in Sandefjord. However, there will only be three groups in the first stage in Manila, and two groups in the second stage. The winners and the runners-up from the second stage group round-robin will move on into the third stage playdowns.

Forty-four nations will be competing in Sandefjord for three finals positions in the men's team finals (Thomas Cup), while for the women's team finals (Uber Cup), there will be thirty-eight entries vying for three spots in Hong Kong.

Denmark, Sweden, England and the Netherlands are the favourites to qualify for the Thomas Cup out of Sandefjord. The same four nations are also favoured in the Uber Cup qualifying competition in the Norwegian city. Russia, Germany, Ukraine and Bulgaria have been exempted from the first stage of the Thomas and Uber Cups qualifying, while Scotland has been given a similiar exemption for the Uber Cup first stage.

Thomas Cup first stage group seeds in Sandefjord are Finland, France, Austria, Scotland, Portugal, USA, Poland, and Ireland, while Spain, Wales, Poland, Belarus, France, USA, and Switzerland are the group seeds for the Uber Cup.

Twenty nations will battle for the three finals berths allotted to the Manila Thomas Cup qualifying competition. Seventeen countries are signed up for the Uber Cup qualifying in the Philippine capital city.

Canada which normally plays in the European qualifying venue has chosen to compete in Manila this time around. According to Canadian badminton officials, they have opted to play in the Asian qualifying to prepare their players for the Commonwealth Games scheduled for August in Kuala Lumpur.

China, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan are favoured to qualify for the Thomas Cup finals out of Manila. China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan are the picks for the Uber Cup. Taiwan has been exempted from the first stage of the Thomas Cup qualifying, while Canada has been gove a similiar position for the Uber Cup.

Thomas Cup first stage group seeds in Manila are Australia, Thailand, and Canada. Uber Cup group seeds are Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand.

The groupings for the Thomas and Uber Cups qualifying:

Thomas Cup
First Stage
Group A - Finland, Brazil, Belgium, Greece, Azerbaijan
Group B - France, Hungary, Cyprus, South Africa, Botswana
Group C - Austria, Spain, Italy, Zambia, Latvia
Group D - Scotland, Belarus, Norway, Georgia, Armenia
Group E - Portugal, Guatemala, Iceland, Slovenia
Group F - USA, Peru, Czechia, Switzerland
Group G - Poland, Mexico, Wales, Estonia
Group H - Ireland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Lithuania
Second Stage
Group W - Denmark, Russia, Group F winner, Group G winner
Group X - England, Germany, Group E winner, Group H winner
Group Y - Netherlands, Ukraine, Group A winner, Group B winner
Group Z - Sweden, Bulgaria, Group C winner, Group D winner

Uber Cup
First Stage
Group A - Spain, Iceland, Italy, Cyprus
Group B - Wales, Peru, Slovenia, Czechia
Group C - Poland, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Belgium
Group D - Belarus, Portugal, Georgia, Finland
Group E - France, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Lithuania
Group F - USA, Ireland, Estonia, Mexico
Group G - Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Norway, Armenia
Second Stage
Group W - Denmark, Russia, Ukraine, Group A winner
Group X - England, Bulgaria, Group B winner, Group D winner
Group Y - Netherlands, Scotland, Group C winner, Group E winner
Group Z - Sweden, Germany, Group F winner, Group G winner

Thomas Cup
First Stage
Group A - Australia, Argentina, Philippines, Singapore, Nigeria
Group B - Thailand, Mauritius, New Zealand, India, Nepal
Group C - Canada, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Macao, Pakistan
Second Stage
Group X - China, Korea, Taiwan, Group C winner
Group Y - Malaysia, Japan, Group A winner, Group B winner

Uber Cup
First Stage
Group A - Malaysia, Thailand, Mauritius, Macao
Group B - Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines
Group C - New Zealand, India, Singapore, Nigeria
Second Stage
Group X - China, Japan, Group B winner, Group C winner
Group Y - Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Group A winner