Lu Shengrong

Lu Shengrong
Born: 27 November, 1940

LU SHENGRONG created history by becoming the first woman President of the IBF when she began her first of two consecutive four-year terms in 1993.

It also made her the first Chinese President of any international sporting organisation and marked an amazing rise to the top of a sport which she had only been introduced to as an official 11 years earlier when she went on a China tour to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma and Hong Kong.

The ‘Iron Lady’ went on to become a member of the International Olympic Committee and to champion the role of women in sport.

IBF Career

1983: Elected to Council

1984-93: Vice President

1990-93: Deputy chair

1993-2001: President

2005: Honorary Life Vice President

2006: Admitted to the Hall of Fame

Asian Badminton Confederation

1982-88: Joint Secretary General

China Badminton Association

1972: Secretary of International Department

1978-88: Director of International Department

1988: Vice President

1996: Executive member of the Chinese Olympic Committee

International Olympic Committee

1996-2001: IOC Member and member of the Women & Sports Working Group

WHEN Lu Shengrong became the IBF’s 12th President in 2001 it marked a milestone in badminton’s history. The first woman to be President of the IBF and the first Chinese woman to be President of an international sporting federation, she was to emerge as one of the most influential women in world sport.

As President of IBF she became a member of the International Olympic Committee, where as a member of the Women & Sports Working Group she was able to champion the role of women in sport all over the world. Not just in badminton and not just as athletes, but as coaches, court officials and, most importantly, administrators.

Thanks to Lu Shengrong’s influence and guidance, former world champions like Li Lingwei and Nora Perry now play active roles within IBF and many more women fill key positions at national and continental level in the game.

What an incredible journey for this mother of three daughters – two of them twins – who first got involved in badminton when appointed interpreter to a burgeoning Chinese team’s tour to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma and Hong Kong back in 1972. She had graduated from the Beijing Foreign Language Institute in 1964 but had always held a passion for badminton, (ahead of her other sporting interests in table tennis, softball and track and field).

If that was the start, then the turning point was in the late 1970s when she played a key role in helping Craig Reedie finally resolve the crisis when the rival World Badminton Federation threatened the very existence of the IBF. Their diplomatic skills brokered the truce, thereby ensuring the IBF’s future.

By now she had already been an official of the All China Sports Federation in Beijing and then International Department director of the China BA.

‘Da Lu’ (Big Lu) was particularly keen to develop Asia’s presence in badminton and she was able to push on with this once she achieved another first in becoming an IBF Vice President in 1985.

Eight years later she was elected President – only the second Asian to hold that office after Indonesian Ferry Sonneville (1971-74). In accepting the honour she said: “I am delighted with this appointment but a little overwhelmed by the trust that has been placed in me to preside over an expanding Olympic sport.”

She had succeeded England’s Arthur Jones as President when elected unopposed in Birmingham in May 1993 and he, for one, was delighted she accepted because he had been a strong campaigner for women to play a stronger role in sport and in badminton especially.

But she appreciated what she had learned from her Council colleagues and stated: “I will lead from consensus and encourage women to be more active in facets of the IBF.”

She went on to be only the second President of the IBF (after Craig Reedie) to become a member of the International Olympic Committee when in 1996 she accepted an invitation from then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch.

A key factor in her election was the IBF’s decision to extend her original two-year term to four years to bring it in line with Olympic cycles. She then, of course, went on to serve a second four-year term as IBF President.

She said of her election to the IOC: “Whilst I will continue to work to advance the cause of badminton worldwide, I am committed to fostering the development of women in sport.”

It wasn’t long before she was able to further that goal when she was asked to address the World Conference on Women in Sport in Beijing.

She was able to tell the Conference how “the IBF have taken positive steps to redress the gender balance in sport. Apart from my role as president, two of our key committees, finance and world ranking, are chaired by women.”

She also explained how the IBF was tackling inequality and religious and racial barriers by revealing that IBF and Olympic Solidarity had worked together to conduct a coaching course in Iran for women. There were also breakthroughs being made in the training of officials in Islamic countries.

She insisted: “The task facing international federations is daunting but we should not feel we have to face it alone. The most effective way to bring about change would be for federations to work together and thus exert greater influence... the responsibility for implementing and maintaining change has been given to international federations. It is a challenge we welcome.”

She also urged the IOC to help address the difficulties faced by women in sport and wrote to Samaranch suggesting a women’s commission be set up for the training of women administrators, coaches, medical personnel and athletes and that measures be taken to guarantee more opportunities for women to compete at the Olympics.

But she also fought badminton’s Olympic corner as well, notably when the venue at the Athens Olympics did not meet with her approval (the roof was not high enough). Writing in the BWF’s International Badminton – the first 75 Years she stated: “I told Jacques Rogge, the chairman of the IOC co-ordination committee, that I felt cheated by these shortcomings. He responded by telling Athens organisers that until Madame Lu nods her head, the IOC will not approve the venue. So finally we got satisfaction.”

She had been equally forceful in both Atlanta and Sydney in demanding more seating at the badminton venue. She wasn’t called “the Iron Lady” for nothing and the impact she had during her two terms as President did much to change the image of the IBF and promote its status as an Olympic sport.

She was the longest-serving IBF/BWF President since the 21 years of Sir George Thomas (1934-55) until Dr Kang Young Joong served a similar eight-year term from 2005-2013.

World Badminton
International Badminton – the first 75 Years
BWF Archives

 -- By William Kings

Ibf pres mdm lu receiving her new four-year term - world badminton jul-aug 1997 Ibf president lu shengrong in 1996 - pic by stephen j line Lu shengrong of china with ibf president ian palmer in a 1987 photo (l-r) j robson, dr kang, mdm lu and c wattanasin at 2009 agm in guangzhu Bess jones receives 1977 wc memento from madam lu Madam lu giving her speech during 2009 agm in guangzhou dpp 9430 Mdm lu with betty scheele and park joo bong - bwf 75th anniv book Mdm lu with ioc president samaranch at the 1995 wc - pic by stephen j line Mdm lu with craig reedie - world badminton nov-dec 1999