Is Badminton an Olympic Sport? (The Game’s History & Evolution)


Justin Ma - January 25, 2023 - 0 comments

Whether you’re a player or spectator, badminton is one of the most exhilarating sports in the world. And the pros make it look easy — effortlessly leaping in the air for jump smashes, hitting stunning trick shots, and possessing lightning-fast reflexes that can leave anyone in awe. 

With 220 million plus players (and even more fans) globally, it’s one of the most popular sports in the world. But is badminton an Olympic sport? And if so, where did it all begin? 

Below, learn about the history of badminton, its place in the Olympics, and the journey it took to get where it is today.

A Quick History of Badminton

The evolution of badminton took place over the past few centuries. However, games that involve hitting a shuttlecock have existed for thousands of years. 

For instance, Jianzi, a Chinese sport that involves kicking and kneeing a shuttle back and forth, was popular during the Han Dynasty period (206 B.C. — 220 A.D.).

Another shuttle-based sport, battledore and shuttlecock, has roots dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. But many report that it can be traced back as far as 2,000 years ago in China, Greece, Japan, Siam, and India. One source even states that ancient Greek drawings depicted a game that was “almost identical” to battledore and shuttlecock!

Battledore and Shuttlecock vs. Modern-Day Badminton

So, what exactly is battledore and shuttlecock, and how is it different from badminton today? 

Instead of scoring points against a partner, the goal of battledore and shuttlecock was to hit the shuttle as many times as possible until you missed. 

This meant you could play it alone or with a friend — and there were no nets, courts, or boundary lines to worry about. According to the National Badminton Museum, the game was “more cooperative than competitive,” since the goal was to keep the rally going for as long as possible.

The Evolution of Battledore and Shuttlecock to Badminton

In the 1860s, British officers stationed in Pune, India, learned about a game called Poona. Poona was a more recent version of battledore and shuttlecock — and it was essentially the earliest form of badminton as we know it today. 

When the officers returned home, they brought the game with them. And in 1873, the Duke of Beaufort hosted a party where it was played at his Badminton House estate. This is where the name “badminton” was coined, a net was added, and rules became more defined.

Badminton In England and Beyond

The first All-England Open Badminton Championships (initially named the Badminton Association Tournament) occurred in 1899. From there, badminton continued to grow in popularity in the United Kingdom. 

In the following decades, it would continue to spread among North America, Europe, Asia, and throughout the world. Here’s a closer look at how the sport evolved in the 20th century.

Is Badminton An Olympic Sport?

So, is badminton an Olympic sport? The answer to that is yes, and here’s how it happened:

Starting in the mid-1960s, fans everywhere were rooting for badminton to make it to the Olympic Games. This rise in popularity helped it debut as a demonstration sport at the 1972 Munich Olympics. And with just 25 players and 3,000 spectators, it was a small yet exciting milestone for badminton. However, the sport faced a few unexpected hurdles on its way to full-medal status.

In 1978, an organization known as the World Badminton Federation (WBF) clashed with the International Badminton Federation (IBF) and brought the Olympic progress to a standstill. Fortunately, they decided to unite the organizations in 1981. And in 1985, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided that badminton should have a place in the Olympic Games.

Badminton’s First Olympic Appearance to Now

Badminton started as an exhibition sport in the 1988 Seoul Games, and finally became a full-medal Olympic sport in Barcelona in 1992. The Barcelona Games saw a whopping 1.1 billion people tune in for the debut, and the sport has only grown in the years since. 

The next time to see badminton at the Olympics will be in Paris in 2024. There, you can watch 172 of the world’s best players participate for the medals. And if it’s anything like the past events, over a billion people will be tuning into the action with you!

Is Badminton An Olympic Sport? The Takeaway

The history of badminton stretches back thousands of years, and the game as we know it today became an official part of the Olympics in 1992. It’s been in every Olympic Games since, and 2024 is looking to be one of the most exciting years yet.

To stay in the loop, you can keep up with badminton events on the official Olympics website. And for more on the sport’s history, top players, and other current info, check out the Badminton Justin blog today.

Justin Ma

I am passionate about helping people find joy in playing badminton, while also showing them how competitive the sport can be.

Justin Ma

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