Sport or Childish Game? The Failed Rendering of Badminton as a “Real Sport” during Interwar Years

By Julie Grall

In the 1930s, badminton seemed to grow as a sport in France. Indeed, during that decade, a management structure was established and badminton became a competitive practice through the establishment of a permanent ranking and a competition schedule that ranged from the local to international level. Everything seemed to fall in step with the other modern sports born in England which experienced a mobilization of practitioners and spectators and an investment in competitive logic (Loudcher, 2007). However, in speeches, badminton continued to be depicted as an easily acquired childish game, unlike real sports (Arnaud, 1992), despite the efforts of its promoters. An analysis of general and sports press, and of the official journal of tennis and badminton, reveals an ambivalence in speeches. They attribute new values to this sport but, paradoxically, keep it in a traditional perspective of a child’s world, associated with playing shuttlecock, which leads to a “failed sportivization.” This difference is amplified by the affinity between badminton and the powerful and recognized sport of lawn-tennis, which eclipses it. These findings explain the minority position of badminton in a context where socially valued sports are associated with attributes desired by the State : strength, endurance, virility, and athleticism.


  • badminton
  • games
  • sportivization
  • imagination
  • values
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