With news that Dubai will host a leg of the international badminton tournament for the first time, Vision explores the growing popularity of the sport
Badminton, since starting life more than 2,000 years ago as a pastime enjoyed by the upper classes in Europe and Asia, has since grown to become one of the world’s most popular sports.
The first Open Tournament took place in 1898 in the UK, though its popularity really started to take off internationally in the 1930s in Denmark, USA and Canada before eventually being made a Commonwealth sport in 1966. But it wasn’t until 1992 when badminton became an Olympic event that it really made it into the global sporting mainstream.
The game has always attracted a strong following in Asia however, and countries such as China, Malaysia and Indonesia dominated the medals tables at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Countries such as India have looked to build on the growing interest in the sport with the introduction of the India League last year, while Dubai recently signed a four-year partnership to host the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Superseries Finals and sponsor the BWF World Superseries Rankings.
The 12-stage event has seen elite athletes such as Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia), Chen Long (China), Jan Jorgensen (Denmark), Saina Nehwal (India) and Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) competing since January, with the remaining events due to take place across Asia, Australia in Europe before the season finale in the UAE in December.
The ‘BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals’ leg, which will take place annually for the next four years, will be the first time the international tournament has been hosted in the Middle East and enables the sport to connect with a whole new region of fans, explains BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer.
“Our tour is becoming increasingly popular and is televised throughout the year in more than 160 countries with a household reach of more than 300 million. Dubai’s global connectivity, accessibility and track record in hosting world-class sporting events can only help us to grow the sport and make badminton even more accessible to fans.”
Shuttle Time, the BWF’s grassroots programme currently operating in 65 countries worldwide, will also be launched in Dubai later this year. The aim is to encourage people from all walks of life – regardless of age, ability or fitness level – to play badminton as a fun and social way of being more active.
His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer, Deputy-Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, spoke in support of the partnership, saying, “Badminton is a sport that is open to everyone and there is already an active scene in Dubai. The partnership with the BWF provides us with an exciting opportunity to build on that interest, to promote the sport to new levels and to develop grassroots initiatives such as Shuttle Time that will help to drive community engagement and physical activity across the city.”