U.S. Reaching Out To Iranians…With Badminton?

It’s no secret that Iran isn’t exactly high on the list of countries that the U.S. is friendly with, but that’s not stopping the State Department from sending America’s women’s badminton team to Iran for a major international tournament. Because, as we all know, the key to mending broken diplomatic relations involves weird rackets and a shuttlecock.

Iran badminton

The Americans were invited by the Iranian Badminton Federation to play in the Fajr Tournament, which is apparently a big deal to badminton enthusiasts. And lest you think this signifies some change in America’s stance toward Iran, think again. The State Department has been involved in cultural exchange programs with Iran since 2006.

According to a U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE press release, we have welcomed Iranian basketball, water polo, weightlifting, and ping pong players over the last two years. Meanwhile, the U.S. sent 20 wrestlers to a prestigious tournament in Iran in 2007. It’s all part of an effort to increase person-to-person contact between Americans and Iranians, perhaps as a way to show that one isn’t as bad as the other thinks.

Either that, or the badmintoners (?) are the guinea pigs to see if Americans will be received well in an environment that isn’t necessarily welcoming to Western ideals.

Iranians have been invited to come to this country for educational and professional reasons as well over the last two years. It’s the first time the U.S. and Iran have been involved in this sort of exchange program since their 1979 Islamic Revolution.

It’s unclear if the women will be required to follow the customs of Iran while in the country, like covering themselves from head-to-toe.

USA BADMINTON says they’ll return the favor this summer, when they will host the Iranians at an international tournament in Orange, California.

So there you go, red-blooded Americans. If you want to get your frustrations out on Iran, start becoming a badminton fan soon. The team arrived in Tehran today and will be there until next Monday.