The Olympic Journey

Badminton – The Olympic Journey

The brief sketch given below outlines badminton’s attempts to become an Olympic sport; the challenges it faced; its debut as an Olympic sport in Barcelona 1992, and subsequent developments.

It was only in the mid-1960s that efforts were made to include badminton on the Olympic programme. When badminton was made a demonstration sport at the Munich Olympics in 1972, there was expectation all round that the Olympic stage was not too far off. The demonstration event was held on 4 September on two courts in a volleyball hall. Over 3000 spectators enjoyed the action on the single day it was played. The use of electronic scoreboards was a pointer of things to come.

Twenty-five players from eleven member associations participated; Indonesia’s Rudy Hartono and Japan’s Noriko Nakayama (née Takagi) won the singles titles, while Ade Chandra/Christian Hadinata (Indonesia – Men’s Doubles) and Derek Talbot/Gillian Gilks (England) won the Mixed Doubles. At this point, there was no Women’s Doubles.

However, from then on progress stalled as a sensitive political issue rose to the forefront. A parallel body called World Badminton Federation was formed on 24 February 1978; 13 Asian and six African associations became part of the breakaway group. The split of the IBF derailed its ambitions for badminton in the Olympics.

Efforts at rapprochement were made from both sides. On 26 May 1981 a ‘Deed of Unification’ was signed in Tokyo by IBF and WBF.

The reunification of the world body reignited its Olympic hopes. IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch attended the IBF World Championships in 1983; the event produced some exhilarating displays of badminton and so impressed Samaranch that he was convinced badminton had a place in the Olympic programme.

The long-sought moment came at 5:45 pm on 5 June 1985 at the 90th IOC Session. Badminton was unanimously included for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. As well as this, it would be played as an exhibition sport in the Seoul Olympic Games of 1988. The IOC flag was presented to the IBF at the World Championships in Calgary.

Seoul 1988 – Exhibition Sport

Thirty players from eight member associations made the trip to Seoul. The event was held in the Seoul National University Gymnasium (also a venue for table tennis) and was attended by a full house of 5000 people all through. The hosts had a good haul with three gold medals, courtesy of Hwang Hye Young (Women’s Singles), Kim Yun Ja/Chung So Young (Women’s Doubles) and Park Joo Bong/Chung Myung Hee (Mixed Doubles). China won the other two through Yang Yang (Men’s Singles) and Li Yongbo/Tian Bingyi (Men’s Doubles).

(L-R) Malaysia’s Punch Gunalan, Jalani Sidek, Elyas Omar and Razif Sidek – Barcelona 1992

Barcelona 1992 – Debut as an Olympic sport

At 10 am on 28 July 1992 the long-cherished dream of millions of badminton fans finally materialised. Foo Kok Keong of Malaysia struck the first shuttlecock in Olympic badminton history, in the brand-new Pavella de la Mar Bella. Barcelona saw 178 players from 37 countries take part. The on-court action justified all the hard work that had gone into bringing badminton to the Olympics. An early-round Women’s Doubles match – between Gill Clark/Julie Bradbury (England) and Rosiana Tendean/Erma Sulistianingsih (Indonesia) was so compelling that TV viewership reportedly was 150 million.

Over the next few days, all four categories – Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles – produced matches of the highest class. The Indonesian off-court couple Allan Budi Kusuma and Susi Susanti won the singles medals proved a golden start for badminton, giving it a picture-perfect moment for decades to come. Indonesia’s wait for an Olympic gold medal had ended. Korea grabbed the other two gold medals, through Park Joo Bong/Kim Moon Soo (Men’s Doubles) and Hwang Hye Young/Chung So Young. Badminton had come of age in its very first Olympics. Sadly, there was no Mixed Doubles event in the Barcelona Olympics. Losing semi-finalists were given bronze medals.

Subsequent Developments

Over the course of the next six Olympics; Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), Beijing (2008), London (2012) and Rio (2016) – badminton’s impact at the Olympics only got stronger, with viewership consistently breaking records. Meanwhile, in 2005, IBF was renamed BWF (Badminton World Federation).

From Atlanta 1996 onwards, Mixed Doubles was introduced – making badminton one of the few sports in which men and women shared the field of play. Another major change was the play-off for bronze. London 2012 saw the introduction of group competition followed by knock-out. This resulted in more match play for competitors and a significant increase in television production hours.
Following this, at Rio 2016 there were draws after the group stage took place to prevent players from anticipating their opponents in the knock-out stages. Tokyo 2020 will continue the incredible journey that has been built along the way to providing a global platform for the world’s best badminton talent to shine.


How do players qualify for Tokyo 2020?

Players qualify based on their performances during the 52-week qualifying period from 29 April 2019 to 26 April 2020.

The World Ranking lists as of 30 April 2020 will be used to allocate the athletes’ quota places in all five categories. Each list will be based on points accumulated during the qualifying period.

How many players can qualify in singles and in doubles?

The total number of players allocated to badminton cannot exceed 172. The exact number of singles and doubles players between Olympics may vary as some players qualify for more than one event. A player cannot play in more than two events at a particular Olympics.

The initial number of athletes in each singles event is 34, while in each doubles event it is 32 (16 pairs).

How does the quota system work?

In singles, the BWF World Ranking lists as of 30 April 2020 will be used to allocate 34 individual quota places for men and 34 individual quota places for women to the highest ranked athletes, respecting the maximum quota allocation per NOC per event and including at least one athlete from each of the five BWF Continental Confederations.


The competition consists of group stages followed by knock-out stages. In singles, the number of groups will be based on the number of competitors. The number of seeds will correspond to the number of groups. There shall be up to 16 seeds in the main draw of singles.

The top ranked player from each group will qualify for the knock-out stage.

In doubles, the 16 pairs will be divided into four groups. The top two pairs from each group will qualify for the knock-out stages. A fresh draw (only for doubles) will be made for the knock-out stage. Pairs from the same group will be separated in the knock-out stage.

Players/pairs from a particular NOC will not be drawn in the same group.