Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Big-League Badminton in Barcelona Forget the Garden-Party Image: `Birds' May Fly at 200 M.P.H

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Big-League Badminton in Barcelona Forget the Garden-Party Image: `Birds' May Fly at 200 M.P.H

Article excerpt

WHEN one exits the Metro at the Poblenou stop in Barcelona looking for Olympic badminton, there is but one sign - pointing the wrong way.

Getting there is a trick, but those who arrive may be richly rewarded by a sport that can amaze with its fast, athletic action - for a bargain-basement price of 1,000 pesetas (about $10).

At the conclusion of one morning session, the British team of Gillian Clark and Julie Bradbury won a tense battle against an Indonesian pair. The game climaxed in a match-point rally of 50 shots or more - smashes, incredible returns, attacks, and counterattacks.

"I can't even remember the last shot of the match, I was so focused," said Ms. Clark, who belongs to the Wimbledon Squash and Badminton Club, Britain's largest. (It sits a mile or so away from the hallowed tennis ground, which is no relation.) Four million Britons play the sport, she says, "more than squash and tennis put together." But badminton suffers from what she calls a "church-hall image" that prevents people from discovering how "spectacular and fun" international-caliber badminton is to watch.

In the United States, the image problem may be even more pronounced, but Cynthia Kelly, president of the US Badminton Association, says the sport is ex- periencing "a real growth curve" now that it's an official medal sport. The US Olympic Committee is funding a development program, including a toll-free hotline (800-621-BIRD) for serious inquiries.

The association has distributed a summary sheet stating why they think badminton is a sleeping giant, a potential boom sport in the US. Among the factors cited:

* The potential for turning on casual "backyard and picnic" players to a more dynamic and challenging level of competition, just as volleyball has done using the Olympic showcase.

* The economy of size - four badminton courts will fit in the space of one tennis court. …

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