As part of the 70th anniversary of Olympic Day, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hosted table tennis stars and officials from the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) of North Korea, South Korea, Japan and China.
Gold medallists at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, MA Long and DING Ning, together with South Korea’s Athens 2004 medallists RYU Seungmin & KIM Kyungah, and North Korean superstars KIM Song I & PAK Sin Hyok were present the the event. Ai FUKUHARA & Tomokazu HARIMOTO from Japan rounding out the star-studded cast showing unification through table tennis.
The 2018 Olympic Day continued to emphasize the power of table tennis to transcend boundaries and act as an ideal medium to portray togetherness on the table. The stars from all four Nations participated in a mixed doubles exhibition match, showing off their skills in the spirit of togetherness and camaraderie.
A table tennis racket signed by all the players was then presented IOC President Thomas BACH. On it, a simple but impactful dedication of: “Thank you IOC for paving the way through sport to the peace process on the Korean peninsula, the region and the world.”
IOC President Thomas BACH remarked: “By playing in mixed teams, the athletes show us the unique ability of sport to build bridges. With these table tennis exhibition matches to celebrate Olympic Day, we can all experience the unifying power of sport and our contribution to making the world a better place through sport.”
The Olympic Day celebrations comes seven weeks after the historic unification of the two Korean teams at the Liebherr 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships held in Halmstad, Sweden. The two teams were scheduled to face each other in a quarter-final showdown. Rather than playing against each other, the two team and greeted each other warmly in an atmosphere of friendship and solidarity, choosing to compete as a unified Korean team for the rest of the Championships.
ITTF President Thomas WEIKERT who was also present together with ITTF CEO Steve DAINTON and ITTF Secretary General Raul CALIN, thanked IOC President Thomas BACH for a wonderful celebration through table tennis and especially again for the added mixed doubles event to Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Having recently debuted on the World Tour in Shenzhen at the 2018 China Open, the added element of unpredictability will make for interesting viewing en route to the 2020 Olympic Games.
The day ended with the IOC President picking up a racket himself, facing off with KIM Song I as many looked on. Table Tennis has the power to create opportunities, Table Tennis has the power to include. Table Tennis is and will be. For All. For Life.