Most of us have played ping pong as kids and loved every minute of it without realizing that it is, in fact, a sport. Although, when ping pong is played professionally it always referred to as table tennis. You don’t have to be an etymologist to know that ping pong or table tennis was modelled after regular lawn tennis. It was created in England during the Victorian age as a form of after dinner entertainment. In those days this game was little more than a delightful, challenging game like backgammon, darts or checkers. It didn’t take long, however, for ping pong to spread around the world, and people began to take it very seriously.
In time, the game would become so popular and competitive that it was accepted as an Olympic sport in 1937. In spite of the fact that it was seen as a simple game by many athletes, only one country (England) voted against ping pong becoming an Olympic sport. Those who did not want it to become an Olympic event claimed that it was not an athletic event but rather a game.
Reasons why this game should not be in the Olympics
To be blunt, it is a game not a sport. There is no difference between ping pong, darts or billiards. Yes, of course, all of these pursuits involve patience, talent and skill, but that does not make them sports. It is nothing more than the game version of an actual sport lawn tennis. And making it an Olympic sport is akin to calling a child who excels at guitar hero a great guitarist. The simple fact is that ping pong players aren’t athletes. Sure, they are skilled competitors, but they are playing a parlour game. What next? Should we make air hockey an Olympic sport? Really, what’s the difference between a game like air hockey and a game like ping pong? Clearly both games require skill to be successful, but both are merely game version of real sports.
Reasons why this game should be in the Olympics
While it may have begun as merely an after dinner game, it has evolved into something more. In the last Olympics, this game was the fifth most popular sport based on television and live audiences. These numbers have been growing rapidly over the past few years. In addition to the Olympics, it has several other international competitions including a World Cup, World Championship and a Pro Tour. Many countries likes China, Germany and France also have national leagues that compete in both domestic and international competitions.
In the final analysis, what sets table tennis apart from games like darts, billiards or air hockey is the consistently high level of competition. While many will always consider it a simple game, there are people who are as dedicated to table tennis as any top athlete. They are also regularly matched against the best players in the world. Competition makes great athletes, not sweat.