Make a racket: Badminton’s birthplace Pune can’t bother to build a museum

Updated on Jul 03, 2017 01:18 PM IST

Even after 147 years, authorities have made no effort to build a museum in Pune depicting the history the city shares with badminton.

The national badminton museum in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England.(Photo courtesy: Badminton England)
The national badminton museum in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England.(Photo courtesy: Badminton England)
Hindustan Times, Pune | ByAshish Phadnis

Pune is the birthplace of badminton. The World Badminton Federation (WBF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have always mentioned that the game was earlier known as the Poona Game and in England, a huge badminton museum in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, has an old photograph of British soldiers playing the sport in Pune. 

However, even after 147 years, there is not even a single sign board in Khadki, which mentions that the sport was born here. “It’s very unfortunate that the local authorities are least bothered about the importance of the place. We should have built a world-class badminton museum long ago, but even after years of persistence and follow-up, nobody is willing to offer the valuable inputs,” said Uday Sane, executive member of the Poona District Metropolitan Badminton Association (PDMBA). 

Sane has been doing the spadework for years. He has the plans ready; big names like Indian legend Prakash Padukone, and Ben Yoneyama -- president of leading badminton products manufacturer Yonex -- are willing to offer help. However, due to the failure in land acquisition, all proposals are still on paper. 

“I was told that officials in Pune are planning to build a badminton museum. So when I was in England recently, I visited the badminton museum. I told them that there are plans to build similar museum in Pune, where the game was born. The curators of that museum were impressed and willingly offered their help. They are ready to share any information regarding this project,” Prakash Padukone told HT.

According to Sane, documents suggest the game was first played in 1860 in the front yard of the wet canteen in Ammunition factory in Khadki. “Due to security reasons, the authorities don’t even allow anyone to enter the premises, forget about having a land at the exact same spot. So we were looking for a place nearby, but unfortunately no one is willing to offer help.” 

Olympian Indian shuttler PV Sindhu smashes during a match at Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Shivaji stadium in Pune in Aug 2013. (HT file photo)
Olympian Indian shuttler PV Sindhu smashes during a match at Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Shivaji stadium in Pune in Aug 2013. (HT file photo)

Expressing concern on the condition of the sport in its birthplace, Yonex president Ben Yoneyama said, “I was eager to visit the birthplace of the sport, in which we are leading manufacturers in the world. But when I went to see that place in Pune, I was totally disappointed as nothing is preserved. Yonex and Sunrise will be happy to help them financially and even provide old rackets and history if this museum is built.”

Sane has big plans for the museum and believes it will be one of the biggest attractions in Pune. “My plan is to construct a museum that will have a four court hall with an international standard height of 12 metres, with an all-round gallery for spectators. History since 1860 till today will be depicted in various formats, and enlarged displays will be on gallery walls. There will be historical rackets and shuttles in display rooms. Along with it, there will be a big library, conference hall, and a souvenir shop. The estimated budget for this plan is around 10 crore,” he said. 

For this dream project, Sane approached many -- from political parties to defence personnel, businessmen and even the president of the badminton association of India -- but is still empty-handed. 

“Raising the fund is not a big issue, as we have ample badminton enthusiasts who are ready to help financially. The main problem is acquiring land for the museum. There are lots of privately owned plots nearby Khadki, where this museum can see the light of day. I even approached Siddharth Jain of Jain Irrigation, but even that didn’t work out,” added Sane.

Proposed museum specifications

To be spread over 20,000 square feet 

International standard four-court hall with public gallery

Display of historical rackets and shuttles

Gallery on evolution of the sport, scoring, laws, dress codes, various court sizes

Library with books, periodicals, video CDs related to history, biographies, coaching, photographs  

Olympic section from 1978 exhibition year, followed by the 1992 permanent inclusion

Indian legends and their achievements 

Meeting and conference hall 

Exhibition on wheels  

Souvenir shop and sports outlet 

A visitor’s photography site like huge shuttle in the ground, fun activities for kids


The history 

As per records, the game was first played by British soldiers in the Ammunition factory, Khadki in 1860. The rules and accessories were unlike what are prevalent now in modern badminton. Officers had stuffed a bunch of stray feathers into the cork of a bottle and introduced a net for the first time while playing the game. But it was the origin, the birth of a new sport, which has eventually evolved into an extremely fascinating one. 

After playing badminton in Pune, the British soldiers then started playing the game in Gloucestershire County in their country. Pune was earlier known as Poona and hence, the game was called as the Poona Game. The Duke of Beaufort from the town of Badminton helped a lot in the development of this game, and thus, it was renamed as badminton, in remembrance of his invaluable contribution. 

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