‘Smile and watch the birdie’ is not simply an ‘old colloquial expression’ photographers used before taking a picture for a portrait. If familiar with the game played on a court or lawn using a shuttlecock, or ‘birdie,’ lightweight rackets, and net, you are familiar with the sport that has brought smiles dating back 2,000 years in Ancient Greece, China, and India!
A game where winning does depend on how well the ‘birdie’ is watched! The ancient Greeks called the sport battledore and shuttlecock and played it with two players. In China, the game was played with the feet rather than a racquet. In medieval Europe, children played shuttlecock, with the game’s objective being to keep the shuttlecock in the air as long as possible.
India, however, must be given credit for Badminton’s rise to being recognized as the second most popular sport globally, second only to football and soccer, tied for first place by sports fans. India originally called the game Poona in the late 19th century, named after the town of Pune. India added a net to the game, and the rule each player had to hit the shuttlecock over the net.
The first set of informal badminton rules were formed in 1867 by British colonists. In southern India, a variation of Poona was played with wooden balls instead of feathered shuttlecocks. British soldiers took note of that variation and played with the wooden balls in wet or windy weather.
British Army Officers stationed in India brought the Poona game back with them to England. In 1873, the Duke of Beaufort was introduced to the game at a party at his estate, the Badminton House of Gloucestershire. In 1899, India formed the Badminton Association of India (BAI), six years after the Badminton Association of England (BAE).
In 1934, Gloucestershire became the home for the International Badminton Federation (BWF), including England, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. There are 190 members of the Badminton World Federation.
Badminton was officially introduced as a medal event at the 1992 XXV Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, with men’s singles and men’s doubles and women’s singles and women’s doubles events. The first male shuttlers representing India at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona were Deepankar Bhattacharya and U Vimal Kumar. Madhumita Bisht was the only female representative at the 1992 Olympics. At the 1996 Olympics, mixed doubles were added.
India is the leader for Badminton sport ‘stars.’ Prakash Padukone, the first superstar, won the prestigious All England Open Championship in 1980 and ranked Number 1 Men’s Badminton Champion in world rankings. Pulleta Gopichand, mentored by Prakash Padukone, won the All England Open Championship in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Gopichand also won the All England Championship in 2001, which put him in India’s history book for Badminton. Gopichand, like Padukone, kept the shuttlecock in active motion as he mentored the next champion, Saina Nehwal. Nehwal, a female shuttler, was the first-ever Olympic medalist at the 2012 London Olympics in the women’s singles event and was ranked Number 1 shuttler in 2015.
PV Sindhu, also a female and mentored by Gopichand, is the first Indian to win the gold medal at the BWF (Badminton World Federation) Championship in 2019. Sindhu also won two silver medals and two bronze medals in BWF tournament play. With the retirement of Pulleta Gopichand, Kidambi Srikanth became the Number 1 men’s player in Badminton in 2018, with six wins in the BWF Superseries and three BWF Grand Prix victories!
Benefits of Badminton
Playing Badminton has advantages that go beyond the glory of the gold medals. It is a great way to socialize, as Badminton is for all ages and fitness abilities. There is no need to call a game because of rain, as Badminton can be played indoors or outdoors.
While Badminton requires very little outlay of dollars in terms of supplies and equipment, a few shuttlecocks, lightweight rackets, and a net — the health benefits are abundant!
- Badminton can burn 400 – 550 calories per hour.
- Badminton improves the health of the lungs by improving your overall stamina.
- Badminton reduces Hypertension by producing natural chemical reactions in the body.
- Badminton lowers blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of Diabetes.
- Badminton is good for heart health, reducing the risk of blood vessels clogging.
- Badminton will not put pressure on your joints but promotes bone growth.
- Badminton raises metabolism and expels nasty toxins from the body as you sweat.
- Badminton requires coordinating mind and body and so improves cognitive function.
- Badminton improves and tones core muscle groups.
China, South Korea, Denmark, Britain, Sweden, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan are most passionate about Badminton. Only five nations, China, Indonesia, Korea, England, and Denmark, are responsible for bringing home the Olympic gold medals!
Basic Badminton Rules
The official written rules of the sport of Badminton were formed in 1877. The game can be played as a single or doubles game, with one or two players on each side. The game’s object is to hit the shuttlecock or “bird” back and forth across a net. The bird should be hit with such speed and accuracy that one’s opponent cannot return the shot successfully.
All Singles or Doubles matches are the best of 3 games played. The first side that reaches 21 points wins the game. With each serve, a point is scored, and the side winning a rally back and forth adds another point to its score. When the score is tied 20-20, the side that first gains a 2-point lead wins that game.
With scoring at 29 all, the side scoring the 30th point wins round. The winners serve first in the next round. A singles Badminton event is played on a court 44 feet long and 17 feet wide. In doubles, the court width extends to 20 feet. The net is 5 feet 1 inch high at the ends and 5 feet where it dips in the middle.