Even though most Americans think of table tennis as merely a basement recreational activity, it is an impressive # 2, behind soccer, in terms of ALL organized sports in the world. What is even more impressive, is that table tennis is the youngest of the world’s major sports. At the competitive level, players hit the ball in excess of 150 km per hr. across the table.
Since 1926, when the International Table Tennis Federation was formed, the sport itself has made tremendous progress in virtually all parts of the world. Among the “developed” nations, America is the last to discover the sport on a major scale. The ITTF now includes 127 National Associations today. Unlike baseball or football which is only played in some parts of the world, ITTF affiliated nations are found on every continent on earth.
Thanks to the “Ping Pong Diplomacy” of 1971, it is well known that the Chinese rate table tennis as their national pastime. Other Asian countries have adopted table tennis as their national sport. Japan has more than 1,500,000 players and in Korea, table tennis is sponsored by national banks and airlines. In Europe, table tennis has seen a rapid growth in just the last 25 years. In the 1950′s, this sport was literally unknown in Sweden but today, it is their 3rd largest participant sport. In fact, many Sweds have held the World’s Table Tennis Championship title. Germany, France, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Rumania have all produced world champions, despite their small population.
As a spectator sport, table tennis strongly occupies Europe and Asia. The United States has it’s own American team which travels the world each year. Table Tennis is now recognized and played in the “OLYMPICS”, with it’s debut appearance in the 1988 Seoul Olympic games. You can find the sport televised throughout the world at any given time. From the “Hong Kong Invitational” to the “Worlds Table Tennis Championships” to the “Olympics”, table tennis is completely sold out for all sessions.
The US “Open” Table Tennis Championships are held in America each summer. You will find the top players in the United States competing here. Teams from various countries and individuals from around the world are invited to attend and participate. This major tournament is held in different major U.S. cities year to year. The US “Closed” Table Tennis Championships are held each December in Las Vegas, Nevada. This tournament is only open to those who live in the United States.
The U.S. Team Try-Outs are usually held in conjunction with the U.S. Closed Championships. Here, the best U.S. players are chosen to participate as members on the “U.S. Table Tennis Team”, which travels the world to represent America.
Even though North America is the “last frontier” for the development of table tennis, the U.S. in it’s own right, has had a few of it’s top players entered onto the elite list of “World Rankings.” With all the positive things happening with our sport here, it is ready to make it’s move into the world.