Like many other sports, table tennis began as a mild social diversion. Descending, along with lawn tennis and badminton, from the ancient medieval game of tennis. It was popular in England in the second half of the nineteenth century under its present name and various trade names such as Gossima and Whiff-Whaff. After the name Ping-Pong (an imitation of the sound made by the ball striking the table and the vellum bats that were used) was introduced by J. Jaques & Son, the game became a fashionable craze. There are many contemporary references to it and illustrations of it being played, usually in domestic surroundings.
By the early years of this century, Ping-Pong had already acquired some of its present day complexities, though it was still seen by many as an after -dinner amusement rather than a sport. An account published in 1903 found it necessary to warn against wearing a dress suit and stiff shirt or, for ladies, a white satin gown but went on to give detailed technical advice about pimpled rubber, the penholder grip and tactics.
The game was popular in Central Europe in 1905-10, and even before this is a modified version had been introduced to Japan, where it later spread to China and Korea.
After a period when it had dropped out of favor in Europe, the game was revived in England and Wales in the early twenties. By that time 'Ping-Pong' had been registered as a trademark, so the earlier name of table tennis was re-introduced. National associations were formed and standardization of the rules began, both in Europe and the Far East.
Then, over the next sixty years, table tennis developed into a major worldwide sport, played by perhaps thirty million competitive players and by countless millions who play less seriously. However, the game itself has not changed in essence since its earliest days, though it is faster, more subtle and more demanding than it was even only twenty years ago. A constant concern of the ITTF has always been to ensure that table tennis remains a contest of human skills and that technological developments, which add a new factor to the game, do not give too great an advantage to the players who have the first opportunity of making use of them. Thus, equipment specifications are carefully laid down, and rigorously enforced.
Modern table tennis at national and international level is a rigorous as any sport in its demands for the highest degree of physical fitness and mental concentration, attained only by arduous training to develop natural skill. It is now arguably the largest sport in the world.
Many of the spectators in Red Deer will be seeing the sport for the first time They will be amazed. Fast, powerful, graceful, technical - table tennis is the second most popular sport on the planet. And with a playing area about the same size as a tennis court and a ball travelling up to 180 km per hour, the players create impressive theater.
Not to dismiss the importance of science here. Table tennis (like most other sports) has relied on the physicists and chemists of the world to provide equipment that enables more speed, more power, more possibilities. But in the end, the pure athleticism of the players determines success. And make no mistake these players are first and foremost athletes; their physical preparation is essential. Canada’s national team match NHL players in fitness levels.
In popular media table tennis is everywhere. We have observed the emerging popularity of table tennis and the recognition its advantages: gender, age and body type neutrality; cultural appeal; and the low risk of injury while maintaining the potential for mental and physical development. We see it on television and on the big screen. International personalities like Susan Sarandon. Kaley Cuoco and Ellen Degeneres rave over it. Nightclubs now feature table tennis tables for their patrons. In short, table tennis is cool.
Today the International Table Tennis Federation includes 220 member nations. There are about 300 million players worldwide.
The table tennis played in your garage is certainly not what you will see at the Canada Games. But as Canadians engage on a recreational level they identify with the best players and share the passion.