The BWF organizes several international competitions, including the Thomas Cup, the premier men's international team event first held in 1948–1949, and the Uber Cup, the women's equivalent first held in 1956–1957. The competitions take place once every two years. More than 50 national teams compete in qualifying tournaments within continental confederations for a place in the finals. The final tournament involves 12 teams, following an increase from eight teams in 2004. The Sudirman Cup, a gender-mixed international team event held once every two years, began in 1989. Teams are divided into seven levels based on the performance of each country. To win the tournament, a country must perform well across all five disciplines (men's doubles and singles, women's doubles and singles, and mixed doubles). Like association football (soccer), it features a promotion and relegation system in every level. Badminton was a demonstration event in the 1972 and 1988 Summer Olympics. It became an official Summer Olympic sport at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and its gold medals now generally rate as the sport's most coveted prizes for individual players. In the BWF World Championships, first held in 1977, currently only the highest ranked 64 players in the world, and a maximum of three from each country, can participate in any category. In both the Olympic and BWF World competitions restrictions on the number of participants from any one country have caused some controversy because they sometimes result in excluding elite world level players from the strongest badminton nations. The Thomas, Uber, and Sudirman Cups, the Olympics, and the BWF World (and World Junior Championships), are all categorized as level one tournaments. At the start of 2007, the BWF introduced a new tournament structure for the highest level tournaments aside from those in level one: the BWF Super Series. This level two tournament series, a tour for the world's elite players, stages twelve open tournaments around the world with 32 players (half the previous limit). The players collect points that determine whether they can play in Super Series Final held at the year end. Among the tournaments in this series is the venerable All-England Championships, first held in 1900, which was once considered the unofficial world championships of the sport. Level three tournaments consist of Grand Prix Gold and Grand Prix event. Top players can collect the world ranking points and enable them to play in the BWF Super Series open tournaments. These include the regional competitions in Asia (Badminton Asia Championships) and Europe (European Badminton Championships), which produce the world's best players as well as the Pan America Badminton Championships. The level four tournaments, known as International Challenge, International Series and Future Series, encourage participation by junior players. HISTORY
The beginnings of Badminton can be traced to mid-18th century British India, where it was created by British military officers stationed there. Early photographs show Englishmen adding a net to the traditional English game of battledore and shuttlecock. Being particularly popular in the British garrison town Poona (now Pune), the game also came to be known as Poona. Initially, balls of wool referred as ball badminton were preferred by the upper classes in windy or wet conditions, but ultimately the shuttlecock stuck. This game was taken by retired officers back to England where it developed and rules were set out. As early as 1860, William Jekins, a London toy dealer, published a booklet, Badminton Battledore - a new game, but unfortunately no copy has survived. The new sport was definitively launched in 1873 at the Badminton House, Gloucestershire, owned by the Duke of Beaufort. During that time, the game was referred to as "The Game of Badminton," and the game's official name became Badminton. Until 1887, the sport was played in England under...
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