History of Ping Pong

Many people hold the wrong notion that table tennis originated in China, because the Chinese name ping pong is also used for the sport and because the Chinese dominate the game nowadays. However, ping pong was actually started by the upper class Victorian gentlemen in the 1880s in England, as an after dinner indoor relaxation, mimicking outdoor tennis. They used day-to-day objects, like using a line of books as the net, a knot of strings or a rounded top of a Champagne bottle cork as the ball and a cigar box lid as the racket.

The name ‘ping pong’ was derived from the sound when the sport was played. That name was trademarked by an English table tennis equipment manufacturer, J. Jaques & Son Ltd. in 1901. The name, ping pong, was used when the sport was played with the expensive Jaques equipment, while other manufacturers called their equipment as table tennis equipment. Later, Jaques sold the rights of ping pong to Parker Brothers in the United States. However, nowadays, ping pong is used as a generic name for table tennis.

In 1901, an English table tennis enthusiast, James Gibb, visited the United States and discovered celluloid balls, finding them ideal for the game. In 1903, E.C. Goode fixed a sheet of stippled or pimpled rubber sheet to the wooden blade and the modern racket was born. In 1902, an unofficial world championship was held. In 1921, the Table Tennis Association was founded in England. The International Table Tennis Federation was formed in 1926 and the first official world table tennis championship was held in London in 1927. Table tennis was introduced as an Olympic Sport at the 1988 Olympics.

In the 1940s, sports goods manufacturers, S.W. Hancock Ltd., introduced rackets that had a rubber sheet along with an underlying sponge layer. This facilitated play with greater spin and speed. In 1949, Johnny Leach won the World Championships using a Hancock racket. Later, the use of speed glue enhanced the speed and spin even further.

This resulted in matches that were played at tremendous pace. When the television viewers started growing more and more in numbers, a demand for slowing down the game started to emerge. With the purpose of achieving this, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) introduced several measures at the end of 2000, to slow down the game. The 21-point format was reduced to an 11-point format to make the sport more exciting and enjoyable.

The ball size was increased from 38 mm diameter to 40 mm diameter, so that the air resistance on the ball increased, slowing down the pace of the game. The ITTF also banned the players from hiding the ball while serving, so that the advantage for the server would be reduced and longer rallies could be made possible. Now, there is a demand to increase the size of the ball to a 44 mm diameter, so that the game could be slowed down further. This is because modern day players had increased the thickness of the fast sponge layer on their rackets, making the sport a very fast paced one and difficult to follow on television.

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