The History of Badminton

by | May 31, 2020 | General Guides | 0 comments

Badminton is a racket sport that involves two (singles) or four (doubles) players. The game is played on a court and requires using a racket to hit the shuttlecock between opposing players. This game can be played competitively or for recreational purposes.

It is officially considered to be the fastest racket sport on account of the fast speed at which the shuttlecock can travel. In addition to this, the game is fast paced; the players are agile, have quick reflexes and high levels of concentration. Every competitive player maintains a rigorous exercise regime. You can read my article on some simple badminton exercises to keep that strength and flexibility.

Badminton is a popular game around the world. Initially the game was very popular in Britain and Denmark. Several countries such as Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Spain, Singapore, Thailand and China also boast major players .

The Origins of Badminton

Nearly 2000 years ago, the children’s game of battledore and shuttlecock was played in ancient Greece, China and India, while a similar game called Hanetsuki was played in Japan. These three countries had their own versions of the game. The modern game of badminton, however, evolved from the version of the battledore and shuttlecock game which was played in India during British rule.

The sport originated in the Indian city of Poona (Pune). The British army officers stationed in Poona added a net to the game of battledore and shuttlecock and named it the ‘Poona game’.

When these officers returned to England in 1873 they presented this game at a party which was organised by the Duke of Beaufort at Badminton House in Gloucestershire. Hence the name badminton was officially given to this game.

The very first open tournament was held in Guildford, Surrey, in March 1898. The first “All England” Championship was held in 1899.

The International Badminton Federation (Badminton World Federation)

The International Badminton Federation (IBF) was formed on 5th July 1934 with  nine founding members: England, Wales, Denmark, Scotland, New Zealand, France, Canada, and Holland. In 1936 India joined as an affiliate.

Another federation – the World Badminton Federation – was established in 1978 as a result of the dissatisfaction of certain non-IBF nations, led by China, with some policies of the IBF. However, once matters were resolved, it ceased its operations in 1981 and merged with the IBF.

On 24th September 2006, the IBF officially adopted as its new name the  Badminton World Federation (BWF). Since its creation, the BWF has expanded to 194  member nations (as of 2020) around the world. 

The Thomas Cup (World Men’s Championship) was the first major IBF tournament held in 1948. Following this, many events have been added, such as Uber Cup (Women’s Team), Sudirman Cup (Mixed Team), World Junior Championship, World Championship (Individual Event), and the World Grand Prix Finals.

The BWF has regularly organised the following major events:

  1. The World Championships
  2. The World Men’s Team Championship (Thomas Cup)
  3. The World Women’s Team Championship (Uber Cup)
  4. The World Team Championship (Sudirman Cup)
  5. The World Junior Championships (Eye Level Cup for individuals and Suhandinata Cup for teams)
  6. The World Senior Championship
  7. The Olympic Games (in cooperation with the IOC)
  8. The Para-Badminton World Championship (hosted every two years)

Para-badminton was introduced for athletes with various physical disabilities. The first ever Para-Badminton Championship was played in 1998 in the Netherlands. The sport was governed by the Para Badminton World Federation until its merger with the Badminton World Federation in 2011.

When did badminton become an Olympic sport?

Badminton did not become an Olympic sport until 1992. Badminton was demonstrated as a sport in the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 and then again in Seoul in 1988.

25 players from 11 member associations participated in the demonstration at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The demonstration was fairly successful and appeared to be paving the way for badminton to become an Olympic sport.

 Progress however stalled due to the formation of the World Badminton Federation, consisting of 13 Asian and six African associations. Following efforts by the IBF and the WBF to put aside their differences,  a ‘Deed of Unification’ was signed by both  federations on 26th May 1981.

At the Seoul Olympics in 1988, players from eight member associations demonstrated the sport.

Only after these two demonstrations and  the merging of the IBF and the WBF did badminton first become an Olympic Sport in 1992 in Barcelona. At these Games, Singles and Doubles matches were played. The Mixed Doubles game was introduced at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, making badminton one of few sports where men and women compete together.

Susi Susanti won a gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona in the women’s singles.

The London Olympics in 2012 saw the introduction of group stages in the competition followed by knock-out matches. Eight female doubles players were disqualified for throwing matches in order to manipulate the seeding for the draw for the subsequent knock-out round.  Consequently, at the Rio Olympics in 2016, draws were introduced so that players would not be able to anticipate their opponents in the knock-out stages.

Qualification for the Olympic Games depends on the world ranking of the players. The world ranking is determined by their performance in events such as the Thomas Cup, the World Championship, the Uber Cup and other championship events. In the Olympic Games the maximum number of badminton players is 172.

The 2020 Summer Paralympics will also include Para-Badminton in its programme. However due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympics as well as the Summer Paralympics have been postponed until 2021.

China has consistently done well at the Olympics, winning 41 medals in total in the Games held from 1992-2016. It is followed by Indonesia and  South Korea with 19 medals each. Malaysia and Denmark have each won 8 medals whereas Great Britain and Japan have been awarded 3 medals each. India gained 2 medals in the Olympics (2012 and 2016). Netherlands, Russia, and Spain  each have one medal.

Badminton Tournaments

The above mentioned events hosted by the BWF (apart from Para-Badminton) are classed as the Grade 1 tournaments. In addition to this there are also Grade 2 and Grade 3 tournaments.

The Yonex All England Open or the Yonex All England Open Badminton Championsip deserves a special mention as it is the longest running tournament in the history of badminton. This tournament started in about 1899 and is considered to be the most prestigious championship on account of  its historical and cultural significance.

The BWF World Tour, which was introduced in 2017,  is a Grade 2 tournament. It has replaced the BWF Super Series (2007-2017). The BWF Super Series was introduced to showcase the world’s best players. The BWF World Tour is divided into six levels which award different world ranking points.

Level 1: BWF World Tour Finals, officially known as the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals. The top eight players/pairs at the end of all the World Tour Super can enter the Finals.

Level 2: BWF World Tour Super 1000

The Tournaments involved are:

All England OpenChina OpenIndonesia Open

Level 3: BWF World Tour Super 750

The Tournaments involved are:

Denmark OpenFuzhou China OpenJapan Open
French OpenMalaysia Open 

Level 4: BWF World Tour Super 500

The Tournaments involved are:

Hong Kong OpenIndia OpenIndonesia Masters
Korea OpenMalaysia MastersSingapore Open
Thailand Open 

Level 5: BWF World Tour Super 300

The Tournaments involved are:

Australian OpenTaipei OpenGerman Open
Korea MastersMacau OpenNew Zealand Open
Spain MastersSwiss OpenSyed Modi International
Thailand MastersU.S. Open 

Level 6: BWF Tour Super 100

The Tournaments involved are:

Akita MastersCanada OpenDutch Open
Hyderabad OpenIndonesia Masters Super 100Lingshui China Masters
Orleans MastersRussia OpenSaarLorLux Open
Scottish OpenVietnam Open 

The Continental Circuit or the Grade 3 tournaments are divided into three levels. The tournament levels award different world ranking points. They are as follows:

  1. International Challenge (22 tournaments)
  2. International Series (37 tournaments)
  3. Future Series (27 tournaments)

Badminton Scoring System

The rules of badminton are quite easy to follow. The rules have changed since the game was first played. The earliest tournaments followed the 1890 rules published by the Badminton Association of England. The most significant change has been to the scoring system.

The original rules featured a ‘sideout’ scoring system in which players could only score a point when they were serving.  Example: If player A serves first and player B misses the shuttle, the point will be won by player A. If player A serves and player B returns the serve but player A misses it, no point will be awarded to either player. The serve will go to player B.  The best of three matches were played to 15 points. Understandably, this scoring system was time consuming. For doubles players, each player of the pair would serve before the service was passed to the opponents.

In 2002 the BWF experimented with changing the whole game format to 5 games to 7 points each. This was scrapped quickly the same year as the matches were still slow.

In 2005 the modern day scoring system was introduced and was officially adopted in August 2006. We all are familiar with this scoring system. The sideout scoring was replaced by a rally scoring method. In this method, a point could be won regardless of who was serving. Example: If player A serves, player B returns the serve and player A misses it, the point from this rally would go to player B. The total points for this new format was increased to 21. If the players reached 20-20, to win the game a player has to be ahead by 2 points. If it goes on to 30 points, whoever reaches 30 first, wins the game.

Another major change to the game was the change in service height. Before 2018, the rule stated that the shuttle should be below the server’s waist at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket. However, after 2018, the new rule states that the shuttle needs to be less than 1.15 m (3.77 ft) from the surface of the court at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket.

Even though this rule has been adopted by  professional players, a few taller players have argued that they could be faulted for service errors more often than shorter players.

Standing at 2.05m (6ft 7inches) tall Mads Pieler Kolding (right) may argue he is at a disadvantage with the latest badminton service rule.


Being a very fast paced game, badminton is very exciting to watch as well as play. The most enjoyable part of badminton is that you don’t have to be a professional to hit the shuttle and yet you can enjoy the pace and unpredicatability of the game, regardless of your age or ability. With its most fascinating history and steady growth, badminton has become a popular sport in many countries.


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