I’m not alone in knowing that badminton has captivated many spectators and aspiring players. Recreational or professional, badminton is a sport played by many people worldwide. However, have you ever wondered just how popular badminton is worldwide? You’d be surprised that in indoor courts and on the world stage, millions have fallen in love with badminton.
At the time of writing in 2018, Pledge Sports estimated the number of badminton players to be 220 million worldwide, which was about 2.9% of the world’s population at that time. As there is no exact data on the number of badminton players today, we can reach an estimate by using the same proportion from Pledge Sports. As the world’s population in 2021 is about 7.9 billion, taking 2.9% of that number puts us at roughly 229 million players at the time we are writing this post.
Factor in reopenings of badminton facilities and the growth in audiences of events like the prestigious Yonex All England, and you get a sport that doesn’t seem to be waning in popularity. In other words, as Sweat Band puts it, the future is bright for badminton.
Join me as I share how far badminton has gone in winning the participation of a worldwide crowd. Read on to learn more about:
- Which countries dominate the world standings
- Countries with the most indoor badminton players
- Age groups that participate in the sport
- Factors behind why the sport has grown more popular in the countries mentioned
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Which Counties Dominate the World Badminton Scene?
Indoor badminton is a sport of international appeal. The World Badminton Championships is the global proving ground for the sport. It has been held since 1977.
The sport of badminton has English origins. Nonetheless, due to its large following in Asia, three out of the five countries that have dominated the World Badminton Championships are Asian countries.
Here are the countries in order, according to World Atlas:
- South Korea
Let’s go over each country in greater detail:
Since 1977, China has impressed spectators with its badminton talent. As of 2021, the country has the highest total medal count of 167 medals — roughly 93 more than Indonesia. Of the 167 medals, 61 are gold medals. 42 of the medals are silver medals whereas bronze medals account for the remaining 64.
China is also famous for one more feat — the shutout. A shutout occurs when all gold medal awards go to a single country. China was able to achieve this in three World Badminton Championships.
The first shutout was in 1987. China would, later on, achieve this again for two consecutive years — in 2010 and 2011. This achievement is something no other country has been able to claim. Furthermore, China accomplished a shutout at the 2012 Summer Olympic games by sweeping the Olympic gold medals across each of the 5 badminton disciplines.
Coming in second is Indonesia. Indonesia has a total of 71 medals. Although the country has more bronze medals, it boasts 21 gold medals. These gold medals have been making their way to the country since 1977. Indonesia also boasts more silver medals than Denmark, South Korea, and England.
Indonesia is home to some of the most successful players in the world’s badminton scene. Hendra Setiawan and Liliyana Natsir have brought home multiple gold medals for Indonesia. Hendra Setiawan, in particular, has impressed many spectators in the men’s doubles category. He has partnered with Mohammad Ahsan on multiple occasions, a pair known as the “Daddies” that are among the greatest men’s doubles pair of all time.
Denmark is one of two European nations to share the top five rankings with Asian countries. With a total medal count of 60, it lags not too far behind Indonesia. The first gold medal of Denmark in the World Badminton Championships was thanks to Thomas Lund. He won gold for Denmark in the mixed doubles category in 1993 and 1995.
Another Danish badminton star is Marlene Thomsen. She blazed the trail for women’s badminton in Denmark and the rest of Europe. In 1995, she was the player partnered with Thomas Lund who brought home gold in the mixed doubles category.
Denmark has a total of 10 gold medals. Also adding to its credentials are 13 silver medals and 37 bronze medals.
When you look at the medal hauls of South Korea and Denmark, you’ll notice similarities. Winning the same number of silver and gold medals as Denmark, South Korea has won 29 bronze medals. This brings South Korea’s total number of medals to 52.
South Korea is a badminton-loving country owing to one man — Park Joo-bong. Regarded as a celebrity in the country, Park Joo-bong is one of three badminton elites who has won five world championship gold medals. The other two players to achieve this are Chinese players — Lin Dan and Zhao Yunlei– legendary players who also top the greatest badminton players of all time.
England has a total of 24 medals, with three being gold medals. England took home these gold medals in 1980 and 1983. England would not take a gold medal home again until 2006 when the duo of Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms took home the gold.
England also has 9 silver medals and 12 bronze medals. England has the same number of bronze medals as Japan, a country ranked 8th worldwide.
What Countries Have the Most Indoor Badminton Players?
Now that we know which countries excel in badminton on the world stage, which countries have the most players? If you look at some of the statistics, you may not be surprised to see China topping the list. Aside from China, here are other countries where badminton enjoys mainstream appeal:
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
Let’s begin with the juggernauts of the badminton world — the Chinese.
China — Approximately 100 Million Players
China’s outstanding performances on the world badminton stage are due to the sport’s popularity in the country. China is home to nearly half of the badminton players from all over the world. With a player base of 100 million strong, China has a large talent pool to choose from.
It’s interesting to note that badminton parallels another sport in China — both in popularity and mechanics. Ping-pong or table tennis enjoys nearly the same popularity as badminton.
The United States — Approximately 6.4 Million Badminton Players
According to Statista’s 2017 data, the United States has more than six million badminton players. The current number represents an approximate 8.7% increase from the number of players in 2006.
Badminton’s popularity in the United States peaked in 2012. During this year, the number of indoor badminton players reached an all-time high of 7.88 million. This number dipped to 7.15 million a year later and remained constant until 2016. In 2017, the number of badminton players decreased to 6.4 million.
Japan – About 4 Million Badminton Players
In Japan, badminton continues to be a popular sport played across the country. According to Statistics Japan, the country is home to more than four million players as of 2018.
Based on the same statistics, badminton participation is highest in three areas. Tokyo has the most players of any Japanese prefecture with approximately 454,000. Not too far behind are Kanagawa and Saitama with roughly 368,000 and 275,000 players respectively.
Indonesia — Roughly One Million Club Players
There’s not much data on exactly how many badminton players Indonesia has. However, an article from the New York Times mentions an estimated one million club players.
In Indonesia, badminton is often a sport of club participation. In other words, to play badminton at a level just above recreational, you’ll have to be part of a badminton club. Indonesia has hundreds of badminton clubs. To nobody’s surprise, most of these clubs are in the country’s capital — Jakarta.
Not everyone who plays badminton in the country is a member of the club. Hence, you can expect the actual number of players to be much higher.
The United Kingdom — 747,000 Players as of 2020 but 944,600 in 2016
According to Statista, badminton participation has remained high in the United Kingdom, albeit at a steady decline. Statista’s annotation attributes the drop in 2020 to the COVID-19 quarantine restrictions in the UK. The quarantine restrictions did much to close indoor playing facilities — including badminton courts.
The number of badminton players in England began at roughly 944,000 in 2016. It rose by as many 44,000 players a year later, only to decrease to 839,700 a year in 2018. By 2020, the number of players dropped to 747,000.
In late 2021, the UK has begun to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Hence, we can expect the numbers to go up again as indoor badminton courts reopen.
Malaysia — not Much Data on Exact Numbers but Enough to Send a Few to Singapore
Badminton is big in Malaysia. It’s so big that, in 1960, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) began. Since then, the BAM has been at the helm of various competitions in the country. It has also nurtured young talent ready to take on the world stage.
With the Malaysian following it has, badminton is the sport of choice for many people. The exact number of badminton players is not known. All that is certain at the time of writing is that the Malaysian team continues to grow. Currently, it has 12 male players and 10 female players, and the BAM continues its hunt for talent.
Last November 12, 2021, The Independent released a story about how Singapore gets players from Malaysia. According to the story, Singapore’s recent acquisition is Penang-born Loh Kean Yew.
Which Region is Badminton Participation Growing?
In countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, the number of badminton players has always been relatively high.
However, for the past decade, participation has shrunk. This is evident as soon as you look at Statista’s data for the US and the UK.
The most recent data suggests that one region is the site of growing badminton interest — Asia. As the largest continent in the world, Asia is home to a large population. The vast population gives badminton a much larger audience to penetrate, guaranteeing the sport’s growth in popularity.
Two countries are worth mentioning when it comes to increased participation:
With 100 million players, China has a love affair with badminton that doesn’t seem to wane. As more players win on the international stage, China will continue to have badminton in more than its school system. It will continue to have athletic and incentive systems in place to motivate and nurture young talent.
There are many sports that Indonesian athletes are famous for, but badminton is where the country shines. More than one million players grab their rackets and strike shuttlecocks in many of Indonesia’s badminton clubs. Given the country’s love and performance in the sport, badminton’s fanfare can only grow in the years to come.
Which Age Group Do Most Badminton Players Belong to?
Badminton is one of those sports anyone can jump into. Nonetheless, after a closer look at the numbers, you’ll arrive at the average age of participation. You’ll find that the trends in age seem to be correlated with the country or region where badminton is played. You’ll also be surprised that there aren’t many differences.
Here’s what I mean. Let’s begin with a study of badminton participation in Spain. The study was a comparison of players in the top 100 of the world badminton rankings. Of course, what researchers compared were their ages.
After seeing age distributions of both male and female players, the researchers concluded that the average age was 26 years. If you need this to be in a range, you can think anywhere from 23 to 28 years of age. This is the same for both male and female players.
In Japan, statistics also show the average age of badminton enthusiasts. Interestingly, the data seems to correlate with the findings in Spain, barring some marginal differences. Based on Statistics Japan’s most recent statistics, most badminton players belong to the 25 to 34 age group.
In short, it’s safe to say that a large percentage of badminton players are in their early to late 20s.
What Contributes to the Popularity of Badminton in the Countries Mentioned Earlier?
Sports can be popular for a laundry list of reasons. However, looking at countries where badminton is either popular or is growing in popularity, we find the following factors:
Badminton is a Sport the Country Does Well in
Any sport that a country excels in can attract more participation from the general public. Countries like Indonesia and China exemplify this trend. In these countries, Badminton is one of the most successful sports. For this reason, more and more people play either recreationally or in an attempt to make the national team.
Badminton Players Abound in the Country
Once again, we look to China as an example. A high number of players has a social proofing effect. In other words, if many people play badminton and excel, a person may try the sport and enjoy it.
The Sport is Present in Schools
Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the UK, the US, and China have one thing in common — badminton facilities are in schools. In China and Japan, it’s even present in the school curriculum. With a public that’s aware of the sport, badminton’s popularity can grow even further.
The Facilities for Badminton are Available
In the countries just mentioned, many indoor badminton courts are open for business. This is especially true in the United States, the UK, and Indonesia.
The Final Score
If the numbers prove one thing, it’s this: Badminton is popular on the world stage.
As an international sport, certain countries have dominated the international rankings. At indoor badminton courts, the game is played recreationally by many young adults.
Beneath the numbers are trends that can account for the popularity of other sports. As shown by the examples of China, Indonesia, the UK, and the US, any sport can be popular if it’s:
- Made available in sporting facilities
- Something the country excels in
- Offered in school
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