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There’s no denying it. In Asia, badminton is huge. As a region with a growing number of players, Asia is home to the vast majority of badminton players worldwide. More than having the lion’s share of badminton players, Asia is also where seven out of 10 most popular badminton-playing countries are. These countries, according to Sportsver, are:

  • China
  • South Korea
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand
  • Singapore
  • Japan

Badminton is popular in Asia because the continent’s dominance in badminton generates fame and the desire to seek fame, badminton has a low barrier for participation, and badminton is widely accessible in school programs and recreational facilities. As the popularity of the badminton scene increases, it encourages more participation and interest in the sport, which in turn creates even more players! 

With such an ongoing cycle, is there anything that can stop the momentum of badminton’s popularity growth in Asia?

There are also other benefits of badminton like improved fitness and scalability to thank. Let’s go into these reasons and more as we uncover why the “other English game” is now becoming an Asian one!

Asia’s Best Players Encourage Participation

According to the rankings as of December 7th, 2021, 17 out of the top 20 best players in the men’s singles discipline come from Asia. However, it isn’t just in this category where Asian countries outperform their competition. Asian countries also dominate the women’s singles category, holding 16 out of 20 spots on the top 20 World Badminton Rankings.

The Asian dominance of badminton doesn’t stop there. As of December 14, 2021, the top five countries in the men’s and women’s doubles categories are: 

  • Indonesia 
  • Chinese Taipei
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • China

These stats can be more than enough to encourage spectators to try the sport. As Asia continues to top the world rankings, more and more players will want to grab a racket and a shuttlecock — even for recreational purposes.

When a country does well in a sport internationally, participation grows. Why else is association soccer popular in countries like the United Kingdom and Brazil? It’s because these two countries have a history of great performances on the world stage.

It’s the same case with badminton. The country that excels in it is likely where it will be popular. 

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Badminton Is Scalable in More Ways Than One

Badminton is a scalable sport. The word “scalable” can mean three things here.

First, when a sport is scalable, it can be played by people from virtually any skill level. Not all sports have this quality. For example, you’d have to be pretty strong to try weightlifting.

Badminton Can Be Played From Any Skill Level
Badminton can be played by people from any skill level

Also, you need to have a body that can tolerate ballistic forces to try out boxing or American football. These, and other sports, are not very scalable since they have physical requirements — which is not always good news for the weekend warrior or the “recreational Olympian.”

This quality gives badminton a very low barrier of entry for participation. Players can start off with a purely recreational mindset and then transition into competitive play if that is their cup of tea. 

Second, we can interpret what it means for a sport to be scalable in how it becomes playable. More specifically, we’re talking about whether or not it can be a sport beyond the court. Soccer fits this description to a tee, and so does badminton.

Not only can badminton be enjoyable to people of all skill levels, but it’s equally enjoyable and competitive beyond the clay or Taraflex court. If you’re into some recreational action, you can actually play without an actual court. Just grab a racket, a shuttlecock, and a pal or two. Everyone is welcome to play anytime and practically anywhere! But keep in mind, competitive badminton should only be played indoors

Third, badminton is a relatively cheap sport to play. I’ve calculated that it would cost just shy of $200 USD for someone to purchase all of the equipment needed to start playing badminton. A sport that is inexpensive to join attracts participants, especially in places where disposable income is not as high. 

This trifecta of reasons make badminton scalable and an attractive option for the masses. 

Badminton Is One of the Most Accessible Sports in Asia

According to Nikkei Asia, one of the reasons for the popularity of badminton is its accessibility. Badminton is enjoyed in Asia both as a sport played professionally and recreationally. Its accessibility to players is the result of both infrastructure and a near-flat learning curve.

Asian countries like China, Indonesia, and Malaysia have made the sport of badminton mainstream. As a result, everyone — from children to adults — can whack a shuttlecock in enjoyment, and there’s no shortage of places to do this.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, badminton clubs are everywhere. According to the New York Times, Indonesia is home to many badminton clubs, with many of them being in the nation’s capital. In Malaysia, badminton’s popularity ignited the founding of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) in 1934. Since then, clubs have been under the watchful eyes of the BAM’s 10 affiliates in 10 of Malaysia’s districts

China also has its fair share of facilities to play badminton in, and we’re not talking about parks or lawns since this is an indoor sport. While there aren’t too many numbers to go off of in regards to the number of clubs, the number of players can give us a clue. 

According to China Today, China has thousands of amateur leagues throughout the country. Given that badminton is a sport played between two to four players, the number of players in China would need adequate facilities to play in. This number of players suggests that spaces abound in the country, and so does the sport’s following. 

The Sport’s Popularity is Reinforced by Social Proof

What the majority does is what the minority will eventually do. It’s true with fashion trends, and it’s definitely the case with badminton. Here’s why:

China has at least 100 million badminton players. In Indonesia, let’s just say that the sport is a big part of the country’s national identity. Malaysia isn’t slow to get on the badminton bandwagon, enjoying popularity since its impressive showing in 1992.

Asian countries have the largest percentages of badminton participation, according to an article by Pacific Prime. The popularity of badminton in these parts of Asia and beyond is the result of exposure and participation. When we take this into account, the growth of badminton becomes an inevitable result.

As more people play badminton or tune in to live events, more people will be encouraged to play. This adds to the participation rates even more, making badminton even more enticing to even a non-competitive player base. 

Badminton Whacks People Into Shape

There has always been a demand for getting fit. In Asia, the market demand for physical activity proves this. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the physical activity market is currently worth $240 billion, with a projected growth to 373.5 billion by 2023.

What’s this got to do with badminton and the craze that goes with it in Asia? To the number-fixated onlooker, there’s probably no relation. Nonetheless, the above-mentioned figures paint a picture of Asia’s demand for staying in shape.

For the average person, badminton has everything in a full-body workout. According to Everyone Active, the sport is intense and fun enough to torch 450 calories a game. That’s a lot of calories for one activity, especially when you consider that a game doesn’t need to be an hour long! To help maintain the high Asian beauty standards, badminton becomes an extremely attractive sport to help reduce weight

Badminton is both aerobic and anaerobic, meaning that you work both your lungs and fast-twitch muscles in a game. Also, due to its relative intensity, endorphins will be flooding the system in no time.

In short, the health benefits of badminton make it the sport to play recreationally in Asia and probably the rest of the world. 

Asia’s Love for Badminton Isn’t Going Away

When a sport is excelled in and remains accessible to the public, its popularity is a guarantee. It doesn’t matter where. Badminton is huge in the largest continent in the world for multiple reasons.

First, the Asian representation on the world stage has encouraged more to follow in the steps of the badminton greats. With every medal brought home is another swarm of spectators who will rush out and grab a racket and shuttlecock.

Second, badminton is a sport that welcomes everyone — from the seasoned to the recreational player. With more places to express one’s prowess with the racket, participation in the sport remains high.

Overall, badminton scratches the Asian itch for inclusivity and physical activity. With the sport delivering thrills for people of varying skills, badminton will continue to be at the core of Asian sporting culture.

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