WUHAN, China – Plans to force Badminton women players to wear skirts have been shelved by the game’s world body following a fierce opposition that threatened to overshadow the Olympics.
"We have shelved the ban (on women wearing shorts)," Paisan Rangsikitpho, deputy president of the Badminton World federation (BWF), said during the Thomas and Uber Cups event in Wuhan, China, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The BWF sparked uproar last year after proposing to make it mandatory for women players to wear skirts.
But the move sparked protests from several countries, particularly China, Indonesia and India.
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Malaysia’s opposition Islamic party PAS has also protested the move, calling for boycotting badminton tournaments.
Badminton is a racquet sport played by two opposing players or two opposing pairs, who take positions on opposite halves of a rectangular court that is divided by a net.
Players score points by striking a shuttlecock with their racquet so that it passes over the net and lands in their opponents' half of the court
Badminton is hugely popular in large parts of Asia but often struggles to compete with sports such as football or tennis.
More prize-money, stars and TV coverage are all part of the plan to reach a wider audience.
Badminton has been an Olympic sport since 1992.
The BWF argues that its suggestion to enforce the skirts-only rule was meant to spread the sport to a wider audience.
"We just want to encourage women and men players to dress properly. We want them to dress nicely, professionally," Paisan said.
The governing body said it hoped for a "collaborative effort with the players and apparel sponsors", meaning that they want more appealing sportswear on offer, and more players wearing it.
Jan Lin, BWF media and communications officer, said the drive to look good was intended to win more TV air-time.
"To get more badminton on TV there are as much expectations on the presentation and charisma of the sport," she said.
"The onus is on the BWF to get players ready and used to the camera and being in the public eye... TV and sponsors are drawn to stars and icons, looking good on court is one way to be noticed."
Last week, the BWF unveiled new, cycling-style shirts for their umpires and technical officials, in another move aimed at smartening up the sport.
Sport outfit in the Olympics has been a thorny issue, particularly for Muslims.
A controversy has raged over the wearing of hijab for footballers after the game’s governing body, FIFA, announced plans to ban the Muslim headscarf and other religious outings during the 2012 London Olympics.
Under this rule, Iran women's football team were prevented from playing their 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their hijabs before kickoff.Last march, the world football's lawmakers approved in principle to overturn a ban on the wearing of hijab on pitch.