Iran badminton, iran us badminton, American badminton team iran

US Badminton Team Making Goodwill Trip to Iran

February 03, 2009 12:56 PM
by Denis Cummings
The United States women’s badminton team is traveling to Iran as part of a goodwill program designed to improve relations between the countries.

U.S. Badminton Team to Compete in Iran

The U.S. Department of State sent a team of eight female badminton players to Iran to compete in the Fajr Tournament against Iran and 14 other countries. The trip, which began Tuesday and ends Feb. 9, is the first diplomatic exchange with Iran under the administration of President Barack Obama.

The event is part of the “people-to-people” exchange with Iran put in place by George W. Bush’s administration in 2006. “In the past two years, over 250 Iranians, including artists, athletes, and medical professionals, have participated in exchange programs in the United States,” the State Department said in a statement.
America has hosted Iranian water polo, weightlifting, table tennis and basketball teams. The Iranian Olympic men’s basketball team traveled to Utah this past summer to play scrimmages against the summer league teams of the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks.

The badminton team is the second U.S. team to travel to Iran, after a men’s wrestling team competed in Iran’s Takhti Cup in January 2007. The team was cheered by Iranian fans and treated well throughout the trip. “The wrestlers embraced their role as sports ambassadors and felt that their visit had created a bridge of understanding with the Iranian people,” said a State Department release.

The badminton team is the first women’s team to compete in Iran, where there is a strict dress code forbidding women from showing their hair or the shape of their bodies in public. According to Reuters, a U.S. official said the team would be allowed to wear their normal badminton uniforms because the crowd will be restricted to women.
The United States has used sports to improve diplomatic relations many times, most famously in a 1971 trip by American pingpong players to China. The event, which became known as “pingpong diplomacy,” helped thaw relations between the two countries and clear the way for President Richard Nixon to visit China in February 1972.

The Bush administration used sports diplomacy with not only Iran but also its fellow member in the Axis of Evil, North Korea. A North Korean tae kwon do team performed across the United States in October 2007 in an attempt to be “an icebreaker … toward gradual rapprochement,” according to Peterson Institute of International Economics fellow Marcus Noland.

Background: U.S. relations with Iran

The United States cut diplomatic ties during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979–1981 and they have yet to be restored.

President Obama is looking to improve relations with Iran and with the Muslim world in general. In his first television interview as president, given to Arabic-language channel Al Arabiya, Obama said that he would be willing to talk to Iran to discuss “potential avenues for progress.” He said, “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.”

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