One Of The Most Popular Sports In The World Is Not What You'd Expect

You probably already know the world's most popular sport: That honor goes to the beloved game of soccer (or football), according to World Population Review. The most popular sports in the U.S. usually include football, baseball, basketball, and soccer, per Sports Brief. In Europe, the sports of choice are soccer, tennis, cricket, and rugby (per Europeana). But one particular sport that ranks as one of the most popular worldwide might surprise you.

According to the Olympics, badminton has been around for thousands of years and has roots in China, Greece, and India. It originally had the quirky name "battledore and shuttlecock" in medieval times. At first, it was mainly a kid's game, but when British soldiers were stationed in India in the 1860s, they began to play it, too. Meanwhile, in other parts of India, players ditched the shuttlecocks (sometimes called birdies) and used balls instead. 

The game got a boost in popularity around 1873, when the Duke of Beaufort featured the game at his house party. It was a hit, and he renamed it "Badminton" — the name of his estate. The name stuck around, and by the 1890s, badminton clubs began popping up in both India and England. At the turn of the century, England started holding tournaments for men and women (via Britannica).

India's top badminton players

Badminton player Prakash Padukone won the 1978 Commonwealth Games, taking the gold in the men's singles games (via the Olympics). His rise to the top continued when he beat Liem Swie King in 1980 at the All England Open at Wembley Arena, becoming a bona fide Indian badminton champion. Badminton, played in singles and doubles, was added to the Olympic Games in 1992 (per Britannica).

Another famous badminton star hailing from India is Pullela Gopichand, who took silver and bronze in singles matches at the 1998 Commonwealth Games (via the Olympics). He won the All England crown in 2001, before sustaining knee injuries that ended his career.

According to SportsKeeda, the most popular sport in India is cricket, followed by badminton. Tennis and football also made the list of popular athletic activities, but half of the people surveyed in 2012 said that badminton was what they played most often. With 1.2 billion people living in India, that's quite a lot of badminton being played.

Badminton at the 2022 Commonwealth Games

Indian badminton player Saina Nehwal won bronze at the 2012 Olympics, and just a few years later, was crowned the best player in the world in 2015, according to the Olympics. In 2017, a player named Kidambi Srikanth took first place in the men's singles badminton games.

PV Sindhu is a very popular player who won a Commonwealth Singles gold medal in August 2022, reports Telegraph India. She is currently the number seven women singles badminton player in the world. Sindhu won a silver medal in 2016 and a bronze medal in 2020 (via the Olympics).

Sindhu and Lakshya Sen both played great games to win gold medals in the badminton games of the Commonwealth Games 2022 (via Indian Express). In the badminton doubles matches, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy beat their English opponents to bring home their own gold medals. On the last day of the games, August 8, 2022, India was in fifth place with 55 medals overall, according to ABC News, while Australia won first place with 174 total medals.