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Badminton history

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Badminton is a racquet sport that can be played by two or four players. Badminton is played on a court which is divided by a net, and the players score points by hitting a shuttlecock over the net, in an attempt to land it onto their opponent’s side of the badminton court. The shuttlecock is a lightweight object which has a distinctive way of moving through the air – the feathers give the shuttlecock drag when in flight which slows it down very quickly while at the same time, it can attain great speed due to it’s light weight construction. It is the use of the shuttlecock that gives badminton it’s unique flavour.


Competitive badminton is always played on indoor courts because the lightweight shuttlecock is easily affected by wind and weather, but many people enjoy playing badminton outside in the garden, on the beach, or in public spaces, in fact, the original version of badminton was a game that was designed to be played outside.


The origins of badminton can be found in an earlier game called battledore and shuttlecock, sometimes referred to as the jeu de volants or flying game. This was a simple game played by hitting a shuttlecock, a projectile made of cork and feathers, with a battledore, a racquet made of parchment stretched over a wooden framework, to another player with the idea of keeping the shuttlecock up in the air for as long as possible. This early predecessor of badminton could be played by any number of people at the same time.


There is evidence that battledore and shuttlecock originated in Ancient Greece approximately 2000 years ago, according to early drawings and engravings that show the game being played. This ancestor to badminton spread throughout the civilised world, reaching as far east as China and although it is unknown exactly when battledore and shuttlecock was first played in Europe and Britain, it was certainly being played by English children in Medieval times.


The game of ‘badminton’ was created by British army officers serving in India during the years of the British Raj at around 1860. They took the idea of the battledore racquet and shuttlecock and added the new dimension of a tennis net. It was played in much the same way as tennis by two players, or four, playing in pairs.


This new badminton game quickly became popular with the upper class officers and wives who were always looking for new diversions with which to amuse themselves. It was said at the time that the British Raj was made up of duty, red tape, picnics and adultery! This game was originally called Poona by the players, after the Indian garrison outpost town, where the early badminton game had first become very popular.


The game was introduced to Britain by returning British army officers where it started catching on at upper class house parties and picnics and was played in much the same social setting as croquet and lawn tennis. However it was at a notable lawn party thrown by the Duke of Beaufort at Badminton house, Gloucestershire in 1873, that badminton was really launched into society. The guests, comprising of many ex Raj officers, played the game, called Poona, at this party, to universal acclaim of the other well connected guests. The game became known in society as the Game of Badminton and the game’s official name became badminton.


Badminton became known as being a party game, fashionable among the smart set and in 1877 the Bath badminton club was formed. This first badminton club standardised the rules, and a publication titled “Lawn Tennis, Croquet, Racquets etc” was produced in 1893 and included the rules of badminton which were described as being “lawn tennis played with shuttlecocks”


Other badminton clubs were formed as more people began to play badminton competively and in 1893 a meeting of all the various badminton clubs was convened in Southsea who went on to found the Badminton Association in the same year. The Badminton Association standardised the badminton rules and in 1899, the Badminton Association staged the first All England badminton championship which was held in Guildford and was the first badminton competition in the world


The first All England badminton championship was made up of men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles competitions, with men’s singles and women’s singles competitions being added to the badminton championship, the following year in 1890.


Today this badminton championship, now simply called the All England is played at the indoor arena at Birmingham. As in tennis it has been many years since a British player has featured in the competition, the Chinese dominating the sport in recent years.


Badminton began to spread to other countries and in 1934 the International Badminton Federation (IBF) was established The founding members of the IBF were England, Scotland , Ireland, Wales, Canada , Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand with India joining as an affiliate member in 1936


Over the course of years as badminton became more popular globally, the membership of the IBF expanded to include over 159 member countries. In 2006 the name was changed to the Badminton World Federation and the headquarters moved from Cheltenham to Kuala Lumpur.


Today the Asian countries of Malaysia, South Korea and Indonesia produce many world class badminton players and these countries, along with China, have dominated competitive badminton for many years. From Europe, Denmark has probably produced the most successful international badminton players.


Badminton first became an Olympic sport in the Barcelona Olympics of 1992 and since then, the majority of the gold medals have been won by China. Badminton is still a very popular game in the UK, and played both competitively and for fun in sports halls and courts throughout Britain however British badminton players have a long way to go before they again achieve international success