Although badminton is a relatively recent addition to the Olympic Games (it made its debut as a medal sport in 1992), the sport has been played in various forms for centuries. Some claim that badminton originated in Mexico: the Aztecs played a game with a shuttlecock, and Spanish conquerors brought the game to Europe in the 1500s. Others say that badminton has its roots in India, where a game called poona (probably named for the city of Poona, near Mumbai) was played. British soldiers brought that shuttlecock game back to Great Britain and it gained popularity around Europe during the Baroque era. The game was enjoyed by many members of the European nobility until the end of the 1700s.

In 1870, some Indian colonial officers were vacationing at a rural estate called “Badminton House” in Gloucestershire, England. The officers played a game with a shuttlecock they had constructed out of a champagne cork with chicken feathers in it; the game was then named badminton for the estate where it was played. Seven years later, an English colonel published the official rules of badminton, though several variations of the game still existed. The game developed into a competitive sport among the English elite, as clubs were formed in the 1890s and the first “All England Championship” was held in 1899. The sport was dominated by European nations until the 1950s, when several Asian nations became extremely competitive. At the 1988 Seoul Games, where badminton appeared as an exhibition sport, 11 of the 12 badminton medals were awarded to Asian nations. Since the sport became an official medal sport at the Barcelona Games, Asian countries have won 82 of the 91 medals. Denmark’s Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen, who won the gold in men’s singles at the 1996 Atlanta Games, is the only non-Asian to win a gold medal in badminton.

How it works

Each “match” is the best-of-three games. Each “game” is played to 21 points. Badminton uses a “rally points scoring system.” If the serving side wins a rally, that side scores a point and serves again. If the receiving side wins a rally, that side scores a point and becomes the new serving side. If the score is tied at 20, the side that wins two additional points will win the game. If the score reaches a tie at 29, the winner of the next point will win the game. An average rally lasts about 10 hits, although some rallies may have 40 hits or more. One of the key strategies of the game, like most racket sports, is to move the opponent around the court, force him out of position, then hit to the open spot.