Badminton is a familiar and well-liked sport in the US, but predominantly is a fun game in the back yard or on the beach. We know that once Americans see the other badminton - international badminton, the world's fastest racket sport - they will want more. The Atlanta Olympics started to raise the sport's profile in the US. The event was a sell-out and became one of the "must-see" sports. Ex-President Jimmy Carter, Chelsea Clinton, Princess Anne and Paul Newman were among the celebrities who came to watch. David Broder of the Washington Post also came. After seeing the men's doubles finals, he reported: "seeing one of the supreme athletic spectacles of my life".
1996 was a landmark in American badminton. It's not only the Atlanta Olympic Games that started to generate massive interest in the American market. In December 1995 the IBF introduced a brand new tournament in California, the Hong Ta Shan Cup; a men's invitational event with top players and big prize money. That year there are plans to add a women's event and to increase the prize money still further - a real Christmas present for players and American spectators. The Hongtashan Group has gone on to sponsor the US Open, increasing the prize money.
The rate of change is increasing. Badminton's debut as an Olympic sport has clearly boosted interest internationally. The STAR TV deal has increased the sport's coverage. Sponsors and television companies are increasingly attracted to a sport which gives them access to the Asian economies. And, spectators are increasingly attracted to the "enthralling mix of angles, tactics, reaction, touch and fitness that would exhaust a squash champion.
Watch out! The world's fastest racket sport is coming. Badminton is coming!