Every physical activity that’s called a sport today started as a way to pass the time. When you look back at the history of badminton, you’ll see that this is also the case. It began as a leisure game, turning into a competitive physical activity worthy of the label “sport.”
Yes, badminton is a sport because it requires the presence of physicality, skill, and competition. It’s an activity that requires participants or players to perform a physical task with skill. The keyword here is “skill.” As a skilled physical activity, badminton either pits one player against another or a duo against another pair, making it a competitive activity.
For the reasons mentioned, there’s no doubt that badminton is a sport. It’s one that started as a leisure game to one that we all wait for at the Olympics. Let’s face it, nothing says “sport” better than the presence of an international association — the Badminton World Federation (BWF).
Let’s take a deep dive into how sporty badminton really is. First, I’ll address a milestone every physical activity needs to achieve before being called an international sport — being an Olympic event.
“It’s not a sport because it’s not in the Olympics!” You’ll hear this in any sport-or-not debate. Sure, not every event in the Olympics is what we’d call a sport (I’m looking at you, chess!). However, the argument does hold up for badminton, especially when we look at the three characteristics of sports mentioned earlier.
Badminton is a sport — an Olympic one, at that. It made its first showing in the Olympics in 1972. It wasn’t an official Olympic event then — at least not until 1992. In 1992, badminton officially became an Olympic sport with the introduction of the sport’s singles and doubles events.
If it was in the Olympics in 1972, why didn’t I just say that it became an Olympic sport that year? Let me explain.
Badminton began as a leisurely lawn game. In 1898, the Guildford Badminton Club held the first badminton open tournament. This open tournament inspired what we know today as the YONEX All England Open Badminton Championship to be held the following year. It’s the oldest badminton championship in the sport’s history, according to the National Badminton Museum.
Following 1898, the sport grew not just in the number of players but also in fanfare. As the sport continued to gain a foothold in England and other parts of the world, there needed to be an international body for it. Thus, 1934 witnessed the birth of the International Badminton Federation (IBF). The oversight warranted its inclusion as a sport in the Commonwealth Games in 1966.
Having international oversight and being a sport recognized by the Commonwealth of Nations, badminton was now eligible for recognition of Olympic proportions. In 1972, badminton became one of the sports in the Olympics — but as a demonstration sport. Regardless, the excitement in the spectators at the time was palpable.
Why did it take 20 years for badminton to be an Olympic sport? Remember that during the sport’s inclusion as a demo sport, the IBF stood as its governing body. Another badminton organization existed as well — the World Badminton Federation. The two international organizations of the sport remained separate, throwing a wedge into any attempt at Olympic recognition and inclusion.
Luckily, the two organizations would unite in 1981 and would go by the IBF’s name. Two years after unification, the newly consolidated IBF held its championships. One of the spectators in attendance happened to be Juan Antonio Samaranch, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the time.
Juan Antonio Samaranch proved instrumental in badminton’s inclusion, calling for badminton to be included in the Olympics as an official sport. The persuasion came to fruition in 1985 when the IOC decided to add badminton to the Olympics. Since there was a grace period of seven years before a newly added sport would be in the Olympics, badminton debuted in 1992 in Barcelona.
Hence, 1992 was the year when badminton earned the title “Olympic sport.”
Is Badminton a Team or Individual Sport?
There are individual sports, and there are team sports. Badminton is both.
Badminton is both an individual and team sport. It’s an individual sport when it’s played by two athletes in competition with each other. On the other hand, badminton can also be a team sport when two pairs or duos play against each other. This is the case with doubles and mixed doubles.
While the basic rules don’t differ between singles and doubles matches, some do. Here are some of the differences you’ll see between individual and team badminton play:
The service rules for singles games are straightforward. If you’re playing against a single opponent, your service sides will be diagonally opposite your opponent’s. As well, there’s an even and odd side. You serve on the left when the score is odd and on the right when even.
The rules for service are similar for doubles. However, because there are two players, players need to be in separate areas. As well, servers can rotate while receivers cannot.
Area of Play
The obvious difference between badminton played as an individual sport and as a team sport is the area of play. In particular, you’ve got more space to move around during singles play but less during doubles. This can be a good or bad thing.
When you’ve got that much space for play during a singles match, you’ll move more freely. However, the freedom of movement comes at the expense of accuracy. In other words, if your opponent hits the shuttlecock in an area you can’t reach, this can cost you a point or even the game.
In comparison, during doubles games, you’ll have a teammate sharing an entire area with you. Right off the bat, this gives you a smaller area to work with. On the bright side, your teammate can take shots you might have otherwise missed and vice-versa.
What Kind of Sport Is Badminton?
It’s an Olympic sport. It’s a team sport, and it’s an individual sport. Badminton fits all these descriptions to a tee.
Badminton is also a racket and indoor sport. It’s one of the most popular sports on the planet, with millions picking to participate in the sport even at the highest level. Lastly, it’s also the fastest racket sport.
That’s right. Badminton goes by these titles. Let’s get into these titles in more detail.
An Indoor Racket Sport
Badminton may have started as an outdoor lawn game played in the summer, but since the first All-England in 1899, the sport has moved indoors. According to the BWF’s Court Regulations, an indoor badminton court needs to measure 13.4 meters long and 6.1 meters from one side to the other.
It’s also a racket sport. In its early days, it was played with a battledore, a wooden object with an oval head that resembles today’s rackets. Today, rackets have evolved to include strings conducive for a shuttlecock’s cork base. They have also become lightweight, having other head shapes beyond the oval.
One of the Most Popular Sports
It’s no surprise that badminton is a popular sport, but did you know that it’s one of the most popular sports on the globe?
Some of the most recent statistics on badminton participation estimate the number of players to at least 220 million. This was in 2018. As the sport continues to grow, you can imagine that number to be at least 10 million players higher.
If you’re interested in learning how many players are into badminton worldwide, I’ve got a separate article on this topic.
The Fastest Racket Sport
One of the fastest things you’ll ever see on any competitive playing area is a shuttlecock flying to the opposite side of a badminton court. For this reason, badminton is the fastest racket sport in the world, beating other sports like tennis and table tennis.
Some of the fastest shuttlecock flights can chalk up speeds of up to 372 kilometers per hour. How fast is this? Think of a car going three times the average speed on a freeway, or imagine the speed at which a high-speed train travels.
With speeds like these, a badminton shuttlecock might get a speeding ticket or two.
Badminton is a Sport — Period!
Badminton has several qualities that make it worthy of being a sport. It demands physical prowess and skill. It’s also an activity that puts players in competition with one another even recreationally — and it’s even in the Olympics!
If these qualities don’t convince anyone about badminton’s legitimacy as a sport, perhaps its history will. The sport has gone a long way from being played on lawns to earning worldwide recognition and notoriety in events like the Olympics.
Badminton is no doubt a sport — and if anyone disagrees, show them this article!
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