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A Brief History of Ping Pong

Tiny Pong

Everyone and everything has an origin story. Although ping pong may not have quite as hilarious of a tale as, say, bubble wrap - which was originally designed to be a textured wallpaper - the sport certainly has a long and storied history.

It all began in 1880 in Victorian England. The upper-class folk, unwilling to venture outside for a game in the Winter months, created a miniaturised version of lawn tennis that could be played indoors. People would improvise equipment using books as paddles and a rounded wine cork as a ball, and they would use more books to create a makeshift net on the dining table.

This indoor version of lawn tennis, dubbed whiff waff, flim flam, and ping pong by players, became so popular that a company, J. Jaques & Son Ltd, registered ping pong as a trademarked name in an attempt to make some serious bank by creating an official equipment set.

For reasons historians cannot directly pinpoint, ping pong faded from the scene and did not return to fashion until the 1920s - a decade that saw both the founding of the International Table Tennis Federation and the first official ping pong World Championships in 1926. Funnily enough, the founders originally wanted to call themselves the International Ping Pong Federation but couldn’t because ping pong was trademarked!

It would be another 62 years before ping pong was recognised as an Olympic sport. In 1988, the first women's and men's singles and doubles were held at the Olympics, with China and South Korea the first to win gold in ping pong - or, rather, in table tennis, as the sport is traditionally called this in professional contexts.

Today, ping pong has remained on the hobbyist and professional scenes - it even helped foster peace between the USA and China in 1971!

During the World Championships, two players from the USA and Chinese teams, Glenn Cowan and Zhuang Zedong, struck up a conversation and gave each other gifts. It was this moment, exchanged by two people with a mutual passion for ping pong, that opened the door for diplomacy between the two nations. Time magazine referred to this moment as "the ping heard round the world". 


For over 100 years, ping pong has been delighting people and bringing them together, and this article has only been an abbreviated history of the beloved sport. As for the future, who knows what might happen?

At TinyPong™, we certainly believe that ping pong isn’t fading from the scene any time soon.


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