Table Tennis also known as ping-pong is one of the most popular indoor sports around the world.
It is a sport in which two or four players hit a lightweight ball, also known as the ping-pong ball, back and forth across a table using small solid rackets. The game takes place on a hard table divided by a net.
Like most other sports, table tennis had humble beginnings as a “parlor game,” open to anyone with access to a table, paddle, and ball.
The sport originated in Victorian England, where it was played among the upper-class as an after-dinner parlour game. It has been suggested that makeshift versions of the game were developed by British military officers in India around the 1860s or 1870s, who brought it back with them. A row of books stood up along the center of the table as a net, two more books served as rackets and were used to continuously hit a golf-ball.
The name “ping-pong” was in wide use before British manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked it in 1901. The name “ping-pong” then came to describe the game played using the rather expensive Jaques’s equipment, with other manufacturers calling it table tennis. A similar situation arose in the United States, where Jaques sold the rights to the “ping-pong” name to Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers then enforced its trademark for the term in the 1920s, making the various associations change their names to “table tennis” instead of the more common, but trademarked, term.
Led by representatives of Germany, Hungary, and England, the Fédération Internationale de Tennis de Table (International Table Tennis Federation) was founded in 1926, the founding members being England, Sweden, Hungary, India, Denmark, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Wales. By the mid-1990s more than 165 national associations were members.
The official rules and regulations are specified in the ITTF handbook, which was first published in 1927. The current (fiftieth) version was published in 2022.
The first world championships were held in London in 1926, and from then until 1939 the game was dominated by players from central Europe, the men’s team event being won nine times by Hungary and twice by Czechoslovakia.
In the mid-1950s Asia emerged as a breeding ground of champions, and from that time the individual and team events (for both men and women) have been dominated by athletes from China. The popularity of the game in China was notable for giving rise to so-called “Ping-Pong diplomacy,” a period during the 1970s in which Cold War tensions between China and the United States were eased via a series of highly publicized table tennis matches between athletes from the two countries.