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The origin of badminton can be traced to the game called Battledore and Shuttlecock. This game was played by two people, using small rackets, called battledores.
The shuttlecock was made of a base of some light material, like a cork, with trimmed bird feathers fixed around the top.
The object of the game is for players to bat the shuttlecock from one to the other as many times as possible without allowing the shuttlecock fall to the ground.
The game of badminton as we know it today was created in mid-1800s in British India. It was created by British military officers stationed there. Early photos show Englishmen adding a net to the traditional game of battledore and shuttlecock. Being particularly popular in the British garrison town Poona (now called Pune), the game also came to be known as Poona.
Initially, balls of wool referred as ball badminton were preferred by the upper classes in windy or wet conditions, but ultimately the shuttlecock stuck. This game was taken by retired officers back to England where this new game developed and rules were set out.
It appears clear that Badminton House, Gloucestershire, owned by the Duke of Beaufort, has given its name to the sports. It is still unclear when and why the name was adopted. In the year 1860, Isaac Spratt, a London toy dealer, published a booklet, Badminton Battledore – a new game. Unfortunately no copy has survived.
An 1863 article in The Cornhill Magazine describes badminton as “battledore and shuttlecock played with sides, across a string suspended some five feet from the ground”.
This early use has cast doubt on the origin through expatriates in India, though it is known that it was popular there in the 1870s and that the first rules were drawn up in Poonah in 1873. Another source cites that it was in 1877 at Karachi in (British) India, where the first attempt was made to form a set of rules.
Badminton in Europe
As early as 1875, veterans returning from India started a club in Folkestone. Until 1887, the sport was played in England under the rules that prevailed in British India. The Bath Badminton Club standardized the rules and made the game applicable to English ideas. J.H.E. Hart drew up revised basic regulations in 1887 and with Bagnel Wild, again in 1890.
In 1893, the Badminton Association of England published the first set of rules according to these regulations, similar to today’s rules. They officially launched badminton in a house called “Dunbar” at 6 Waverley Grove, Portsmouth, England on September 13 of that year. They also started the All England Open Badminton Championships, the first badminton competition in the world, in 1899.
Badminton in the United States
The game of badminton first appeared in the United States in the 1870s as a very slow-paced society game in New York. A fast shuttle was used, that required almost no effort on the part of the players hitting the shuttle from one end to the other.
An hour-glass shaped court made less space for the players to cover. A higher net made it almost impossible to smash the shuttle. The formal suits and dresses worn by players made it difficult to run effectively.
In the year of 1878 the first badminton club in the United States was established. It was named the Badminton Club of the City of New York.
The club served as a social gathering place with little emphasis on badminton. The games in the early days were just like a carnival. The games featured multi-colored shuttles, pennants and badminton poles. These games featured players snaking on tea, sandwiches and cakes while resting between games.
In the early 1900s the game of badminton became more athletic. Players changed their social clothes with more sportish look just like Tennis. The rules of the English Badminton Association were adopted and the court changed from a hour-glass shaped court to a rectangular shaped court.
In the mid 1930s the game became much popular throughout the US, from New York to Los Angeles. Some of the more noteworthy Hollywood stars who played the game included James Cagney, Harold Lloyd, Bettie Davis and Ginger Rodgers.
The sports first national television broadcast was on July 24, 1942, as the top male and female players on the East Coast competed for the Silver Bowl.
In the 1950s the sport reached such heights in the United States that the top American male player, Joe Alston, featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. This is the only time that a badminton player has reached such a feat.
In the 1970s there was a decline in the number of official clubs in the United States, but there was a great expansion in high school and college. The mid 1970s saw an introduction of the lighter metal rackets.
The Badminton Federation
The International Badminton Federation (IBF) (now known as Badminton World Federation) was established in 1934 with Canada, Denmark, England, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales as its founding members. India joined as an affiliate in 1936. The BWF now governs international badminton and develops the sport globally.
First Olympic Appearance
Badminton appeared in the 1972 and 1988 Olympics as a demonstration event. It made its first appearance as an Olympic event in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Only the singles and doubles were introduced in the Olympic Games in Barcelona.
In the first appearance the Indonesia team won the gold both in the single men’s and women’s competition. The Indonesia female gold winner became the first medalist after forty years participating in the Olympics. Ironically, her future husband won Indonesia’s second gold medal in the men’s singles.
While the doubles competition was dominated by South Korea, winning both double men’s and women’s competition. Indonesia ended with 5 medals (2 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze) while South Korea ended with 4 medals (2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze).
Badminton dominated today by Asia
While initiated in England, competitive men’s badminton in Europe has traditionally been dominated by Denmark. Asian nations, however, have been the most dominant ones worldwide. China, Indonesia, South Korea, and Malaysia along with Denmark are among the nations that have consistently produced world-class players in the past few decades, with China being the greatest force in both men’s and women’s competition in recent years. As of 2019 out of the top 50 men and women singles 84% are from Asia.