BOLTON Arena is preparing to host the English National Badminton Championships for the first time.

The prestigious event, which will showcase the country’s top talent, has been held at the Manchester Velodrome for the last eight years, but Badminton England agreed to switch the venue to allow Britain’s cyclists to prepare for the Olympic Test event for this year’s Olympic Games.

The competition will go ahead on the weekend of February 3, with many of the competitors also taking part in the Thomas and Uber Cup campaigns in Amsterdam later next month.

The likes of last year’s men’s singles winner and Commonwealth silver medallist, Rajiv Ouseph, and Commonwealth bronze medallist, Elizabeth Cann, are set to compete, alongside Bolton-born Jenny Wallwork who will be looking to add to her two women’s doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles.

The Arena is no stranger to major sporting events – the badminton competition of the 2002 Commonwealth Games took place there, but this will be the first time the sport has returned since.

Despite competition from several other centres to stage the event, Badminton England’s head of major events and competitions, Nicola Moloney, said Bolton Arena was the superior venue.

She said: “Badminton enjoyed a very successful Commonwealth Games in 2002 with Bolton Arena hosting the event. We also wanted to ensure the tremendous support of our volunteers and fans were able to continue and so the choice of venue was easy for us.

“This year presents British sport with an amazing and unique opportunity and it is vital that sports are able to maximise their preparation time for key events as we approach the Olympic Games in London in the summer.

“As Manchester remains committed to the championships, we did not want to leave the North West and the tremendous support the event receives. Therefore Bolton Arena, being the premier venue outside of Manchester, was a very obvious choice for us.”

Alongside offering spectators the opportunity to enjoy the sport at an elite level, Moloney also revealed that the event would give the public the chance to get a preview of rising stars.

She said: “It is a fantastic opportunity for our developing and emerging players to compete against our elite squad and for badminton fans to witness our Olympic hopefuls and stars of the future.

“We are very excited to once again be hosting the English National Badminton Championships, especially in an Olympic year with sport being a key focus of the country this summer.

“Manchester City Council are committed to ensuring that their community and development objectives linked to the event are still met and we want to show people first hand what a great sport badminton is to watch at the elite level.”

Tickets for the event are available via telephone on 0844 581 1424 or online at www.nationalbadmintonchamps.