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Badminton history: origins, popularity and the future

Badminton history: origins, popularity and the future

History

Badminton is thought to have originated from a game called Battledore and Shuttelcock, played in Ancient Greece and then spreading East to India and China.Although, a net wasn’t introduced to the game until the mid 1800’s. India was the first country to introduce the net to the game of badminton. They then drew up the first official rules for badminton in Pune, in 1873. The British army officers at the time (who were stationed in India) started to play the game and are then thought to have brought the game back to England. In those days, badminton was enjoyed by more upper-class people. Whereas today badminton is enjoyed and played by all people, from different backgrounds, countries and classes. 

Since 1992 (before 1992 badminton was seen as a ‘demonstration’ sport), badminton has achieved Olympic sport status across five medals; 

  • male singles
  • female singles
  • male doubles
  • female doubles
  • mixed doubles

China have won the most badminton medals at the Olympic Games (41 as of 2021), followed by Indonesia (19) and South Korea (19). The most successful Olympic badminton player of all time is Gao Ling of China, with 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal. When it comes to the BWF World Championships, China yet again tops the listings with 66 medals, followed by Indonesia (23), Denmark (10.5) and South Korea (10). England (2.5) last one a medal in 2006.

In terms of the UK, The National Badminton centre in Milton Keynes houses the national badminton museum. For anyone interested in the history of badminton, it is a place of great interest. They have a collection of old shuttles and rackets on display as well as more modern ones. It highlights the aesthetic and visual changes to badminton equipment over the years. There is also more detailed information on the history of this great sport. 

 

Style of play

The game of badminton has evolved so much since it started. Early badminton rackets were always made out of wood which made them heavy. The first mass produced lightweight steel racket wasn’t released until 1966. This racket helped to change and evolve the game. As the racket was lighter, players could generate more speed and power with it. Today rackets are mostly made of graphite/carbon fibre. The technology in the rackets/strings and equipment have now made the game even faster, with players also hitting it much harder.

This has meant the style of play in badminton has changed and developed over the years. Technology and physiology has a major part to play in these developments. There are a number of reasons attributed to these changes:

  • lighter badminton rackets - perfect for more modern, stronger players looking to play defensive strokes and those at the net
  • improved footwear - allowing for improved flexibility and agility on the court, keeping up with the pace of the game
  • more advanced training - with greater professionalism of all sports, training has become more focused on all round physical development than technique specific
  • better quality shuttlecocks - improved materials has added to the pace of the game

This has led to a faster, more agile playing style, looking to counteract the increased pace of matchplay. A quicker pace of game has led to an increasing amount of offensive players in the game.

 

Popularity 

Badminton has one of the largest participation rates in the world, with around 220 million people playing badminton globally.

The growing trend of participation can also be seen in the UK, albeit not as popular as in other countries, such as those in Asia. According to the Badminton England Annual Report 2019/20 – 265,00 adults played badminton twice a month, and 190,00 juniors also played twice a month. From those figures alone you can see how popular badminton is in England. Badminton actually has the fourth highest participation rate in the UK, which the Badminton England 2020/21 report highlights. Further to that, there has been a 10% rise of junior players, with an increase of 65% of those amongst the Under 11 age group.

It is just a sport that is not televised much and is not in the media in the UK. However, in other countries around the world, badminton is as popular as football is in England. Indonesia is a great example. So many people over there play badminton and love to watch it. The top players over there are like celebrities and there are so many badminton halls, outdoor courts and clubs. Japan, China and Korea are also notable examples of countries who have heavy participation rates in badminton. In Europe, Denmark is a country famous for badminton. It is only a small country by population, but badminton is played by a large number of people and is also heavily covered in the media.

Badminton is showing evidence of getting more and more popular. More people are realising the inclusivity of the sport as well as the health benefits that it can provide. YouTube and online streaming are also playing a huge factor in increasing the popularity. It is now much more accessible to watch and follow. As an example, the Yonex All England to have had a 359M global tv audience.

 

Forecasting the future

Although interest in badminton participation is evidently high within the UK, let alone globally, regaining this interest and reopening spaces to play will be imperative for the future of the sport. The onus is now on the government and local authorities to provide the infrastructure for badminton to continue to flourish within the UK.

Although there are evident threats to badminton participation, the inclusivity and sense of community provided by the sport provide hope for the future. Additionally, given growing government focus on overcoming increasing obesity rates within the UK, sports such as badminton are likely to be supported due to their fun and inclusive nature, particularly at grassroots level.

Through all the negativity of the recent pandemic, the future of badminton is one of promise. Rising participation rates, digital accessibility and with potential investment into the infrastructure of badminton as a whole, the future looks promising.