In what may be referred to as badminton diplomacy, the Obama administration is sending a women’s badminton team to Iran this week as part of a broad bid to engage the Iranian people through educational and cultural exchanges.
The 12-member team – eight female players and four coaches and managers representing USA Badminton – will be in Tehran from Tuesday until Feb. 9 to participate in the Iran Fajr International Badminton Tournament, which begins on Friday, the State Department said in a statement.
It said the U.S. squad was invited by the Iranian Badminton Federation and that they hoped to extend an invitation to Iran’s national team to come to the United States in July. This week’s trip is being sponsored by the State Department, which since 2006 has promoted people-to-people exchanges with Iran.
More than 250 Iranians, including artists, athletes, and medical professionals, have participated in exchange programs in the United States, the department said.
Previous sports exchanges, which started in Jan. 2007, have included wrestlers and weightlifters as well as basketball, table tennis and water polo players. Since then, the department has sent 32 American athletes to Iran and brought 75 Iranian athletes and coaches to the United States, it said.
The badminton trip is the first to take place under the Obama administration, which is considering new approaches to Iran. Those include direct official dialogue and the appointment of a special envoy to deal with Iran, which has not had diplomatic relations with the U.S. since 1979.
Anyone remember Ping Pong diplomacy?