With a history of thousands of years, Kabaddi is an intrinsic part of India’s sporting lore. Following the success of the Pro Kabaddi League and the inclusion of the sport in the Asian Games, kabaddi has truly become global in recent years. Kabaddi’s rise to global fame, however, can be traced back to the 1936 Olympics that was held in Berlin. Even though it wasn’t part of the official  programme at the Games, it found a stage and the audience as an exhibition just ahead of the Olympics.

With the world assembled and the request to showcase it approved, a contingent from Maharashtra played a 40-minute exhibition game on the premises of the city’s university. Those watching were so drawn to it, that they had to play two more games to meet the demand. It is often wrongly reported that kabaddi was a demonstration sport at the 1936 Olympics. The truth is that it was never an official part of the Games, but it was showcased and received well, giving it a global exposure. Asian countries, in particular, took a huge interest in the sport in its early years but was soon followed by European and African nations. Kabaddi was included as an official demonstration sport at the first-ever Asian Games in 1951 and then again in 1982. Since 1990, it has been a regular medal event at these continental Games. The formation of the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) – the world governing body for kabaddi – in 2004 with a long-term goal of establishing kabaddi as an Olympic sport also gave a further push to the sports’ global appeal. Three men’s kabaddi World Cups have been held since, in 2004, 2007 and 2016 with the Indian kabaddi team winning gold medals in all three and Iran finishing runners-up on each occasion. Kabaddi in Asian Games has also been dominated by India, with the country clinching top honours in each of the editions held from 1990 to 2014. With women’s kabaddi being included in the Asian Games from 2010, India won gold at the 2010 Guangzhou and 2014 Incheon Games.

The 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, though, marked a tectonic shift in the world of kabaddi. Iran won gold medals in both the men’s and women’s categories after defeating India in both the finals. It was the first time India failed to claim the top podium spot at any major global kabaddi event, demonstrating how the sport is gradually becoming more and more competitive with every passing year.

Credit : Olympics.com

Picture Credit : Google 


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