Badminton has a long and fascinating history.
Its origins date back over two thousand years, to 500 years before the birth of Christ and a game called ‘Ti Jian Zi’ (shuttle kicking) which was played in Ancient China.
It was played by kicking something similar to the modern day shuttlecock, without the use of rackets.
By the time of the birth of Christ, the game ‘Battledore and Shuttlecock’ was being played in China, Japan and Greece. A battledore was a simple bat, and the aim of the game was to hit the shuttlecock back and forwards as many times as possible.
It is unclear where the origins of the shuttlecock lie, though it is possible that the cork base was used to store feathers (maybe for writing?), and then first thrown and then hit when it was found that it flew well.
By the 16th Century Battledore had evolved into a children’s game and over the next century became popular with the upper classes in Europe. In mainland Europe it was known by its French name ‘jeu de volant’.
By the mid 19th Century a game called ‘poona’ had developed in India that more closely resembled modern-day badminton.
British Army officers who were stationed in India began picking up the game, recording some basic rules and were responsible for bringing it back to England.
Around the same time the Duke of Beauford began introducing it to the noble and royal society at his estate in Gloucestershire, England.
This estate was called Badminton House.
It is suggested that here the idea of putting a string between the players was born, along with trying to hit the shuttlecock away from your opponent.
Within a few years the Bath Badminton Club had been formed and the rules as they are today began to be developed. And the game had a new name – Badminton!
Clubs began appearing all round the country over the next few years and in 1893 there was a meeting of 14 of the most prominent in Southsea in Hampshire.
Soon after that meeting, the first national badminton association was founded and the first set of rules were formalised.
As the sport went from the genteel affair that it had been to a more competitive one, the first tournaments occurred right at the end of that century, with the first international ‘All England’ tournament taking place in 1899.
One of the early stars of the game was the English tennis star Kitty Godfree who was badminton champion three times in the 1920s.
As other national badminton associations began appearing and the game picked up popularity around the world, in 1934 the International Badminton Federation (IBF) was born.
The original members were England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Holland, Canada, New Zealand and France.
India joined as an affiliate in 1936, with Australia and United States not long after that.
The American Badminton Association had already been formed in 1936 and the sport had been popular there since 1878 when the ‘Badminton Club of New York’ was formed.
As the popularity grew, the first major IBF tournament was the men’s team championship, the Thomas Cup, in 1949, named after the first IBF President, Sir George Thomas. It was originally going to be in 1939 but had to be postponed due to the war.
The first ladies team championship was in 1956 when the US won the Uber Cup.
As more tournaments were being held, badminton became a demonstration sport at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
The first World Badminton Championships, including singles events were held in 1977.
Over the next decade the sport continued to be dominated by Asians, most notably China’s top women Li Lingwei and Han Aiping. Morten Frost of Denmark was one exception, winning over 70 international titles during the 1980s.
By then badminton had become a professional sport, with the IBF establishing the World Grand Prix Circuit and prize money starting to improve.
Badminton returned as an exhibition sport in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and was given full medal status at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Then, international interest in the sport really began taking off as sponsor money and TV coverage started increasing and the world became attracted to the speed and excitement of the game.
Mixed doubles was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Badminton now has the glory of being the fastest racket sport (the fastest smash was clocked at 260 kilometres per hour by Great Britain’s Simon Archer) as well as one of the most widely played sports in the world, and is growing in popularity all the time.