Badminton is a sport that is recognized and played by millions of people all over the world.
For most people, it is purely a recreational game, a pasttime enjoyed at backyard barbecues and family reunions. For many though, it is a highly competitive sport. For these men and women who have perfected the game, a series of professional tournaments have evolved to determine who the world’s best badminton players are.
The primary world tournament for badminton is the BWF World Championships, run by the Badminton World Federation. Originally held every three years starting in 1977, it is now held annually, except in Olympic years. The BWF World Championships are contested in five fields: Men’s Singles and Doubles, Women’s Singles and Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. The Chinese have been especially dominant at the BWF World Championships, winning almost as many titles as all other countries combined, and posting the only sweep of all five titles in one year in 1987.
Another popular tournament is the Thomas Cup, which is held every two years. Unlike the BWF World Championships, in which athletes compete as individuals or pairs, participants in the Thomas Cup represent their home country. Early editions of the Thomas Cup were dominated by Malaysia and Indonesia, but in recent years the Chinese have commanded the Thomas Cup, winning the last four tournaments.
The women’s equivalent to the Thomas Cup is the Uber Cup, which began in 1956 and has run concurrently with the Thomas Cup since 1984. Although China has controlled the Thomas Cup as decisively as the other competitions, the team from South Korea is the current Uber Cup champion, having defeated China in the 2010 edition of the tournament. The United States won the first three Uber Cups in the 1950s, but has faded in competition and is now not typically considered a serious contender.
With tournaments for men’s and women’s badminton players, it was only a matter of time before a third competition for mixed doubles was instituted. This tournament is the Sudirman Cup, contested every two years starting in 1989. China, Korea, and Indonesia are the only nations to have won the Sudirman Cup, with China winning the majority.
The badminton competition that receives the most attention from casual sports fans is the Olympic badminton competition held every four years as part of the Summer Olympic Games. During Olympic years, this competition takes the place of the BWF World Championships. Competitions in the same five classes are conducted. While participation in the event has seen competitors from over 60 nations, the same powerhouse nations, such as China and Indonesia, tend to dominate the competition.