If you grew up, well, basically anywhere in the world, chances are good that you have picked up the small wooden and rubber paddle and have played a game of table tennis or Ping-Pong. The game is as fun as it is competitive and not only demands serious physical stamina, but mental stamina, and top-class reflexes and hand-eye coordination.
But just because you know how to hit the small plastic ball over the net doesn’t mean you know the legacy that you are playing a part in.
The game of table tennis is loved the world over, and is now one of the most popular Olympic sports during the Summer Olympics. It’s complete with different styles of play, bitter rivalries, and massive international stars.
But just like many other games, table tennis has fairly modest beginnings.
The game of table tennis first began in the 1880s when lawn tennis players adapted their game to play indoors during the bitter winters.
The name Ping-Pong, as it is commonly known as, was first created by the U.K. firm J. Jaques and Son at the end of the 19th century. It was then trademarked in the United States by Parker Brothers.
In 1902, a Japanese student visiting the West saw a game of table tennis and brought it back to Japan where he introduced it to his fellow students. It also spread east from Britain and gained large popularity in places like Vienna, Budapest, and more.
It wasn’t long until full tournaments were being organized and in 1922, the Table Tennis Association was officially formed. In that same year, an All England Club was formed and soon after a nationwide tournament hosted 40,000 competitors who had fallen in love with the sport.
Five years later, the first table tennis world championships were won by Hungarian Dr. Jacobi. That began an era of dominance by the Hungarians that was spear-headed by legend Victor Barna. In 1927, the English Table Tennis Association was also born and under the direction of Ivor Montague, the moder-day rules of table tennis were created. While the ETTA had a membership of just 19 leagues at its inception, it now has over 300 leagues and approximately 75,000 total members.
Then, the whole game changed in the 1950s after sponge or sandwich rubber allowed spin and control to play a huge part in the game. In many ways, it can be argued that this was the period that marked the beginning of modern-day table tennis. It wasn’t long until the game’s governing body, the ITTF, came up with ways to control this new technological development to make sure that talent and success was based primarily on the player and not on his or her tools. The rubber padding allowed users to exert almost surgical precision on the ball. Now, in official table tennis games, paddles must adhere to specific thickness and weight in order to adhere by tournament specifications.
The rubber and inclusion of spin in the game dramatically increased the speed and spin style of the game, as well as made it a much more strategic and spectator sport.
Since then, the game has become a truly global sport, dominated by countries such as China, South Korea, Germany, Sweden, and more.
The recognition of its massive fan appeal and genuine athletic demand culminated in its inclusion in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. The televised broadcast of the men’s singles final that year attracted a jaw-dropping worldwide audience of 2 billion viewers. Thanks much in part to its billions of fans across the Asian continent.
While it was at first seen as something of a source of humor in the Olympic community, it has since proven to be a fan-favorite with some of the most intense rallies and emotional moments that the Olympic games have to offer. If you are interested in improving your own table tennis game, check out the stiga xtr outdoor table tennis table review.
Table tennis is much more than it started out as a way for lawn tennis players to maintain their sharpness during the winter months. It is now a community all in its own.
Table tennis can be found at gyms, at bars, at the offices at Fortune 500 companies, and in countless basements and sun rooms. If you are a fan of table tennis, take pride in knowing that you are taking part in a legacy and history that has spanned over one hundred years, and the whole world over. Perhaps next time you pick up a paddle, you’ll appreciate it a little bit more now that you know how far the game has already come, and how far it’s yet to go.