26 Oct 2021

As an original member of the “Ping Pong Diplomacy” team in 1971, George Braithwaite was an inspiration for the table tennis community worldwide.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy, the ITTF Foundation is proud and honoured to be a part of the official dedication of the “The Chief” George Braithwaite Table Tennis Court. The event took place last Saturday, October 23, in New York, USA.

Retired from her professional career on the international stage last year, well-decorated Swedish player Matilda Ekholm was present at the event.

“After my retirement, I still work in table tennis with the mission to help grow this fantastic sport. This mission has led me to the ITTF Foundation. On behalf of the Foundation, we would like to commemorate the life of George Braithwaite and his contribution to using table tennis as a tool to create dialogues. He and his teammates’ charisma won over millions and helped defrost the tensions between East and West during the Cold War, eventually leading to 50 years of prosperity for both countries. The Foundation wants to ensure that the legacy of Ping Pong Diplomacy continues, not only on states level but also on grassroots level.”

Also attending on Saturday was Peizhen Shao, one of the members of the original Chinese team in 1971, who bid farewell to a dear friend.

“Friendship first, competition second – a phrase that I would never forget as it has become the equivalent of sport spirit in China. I was acquainted with George as early as 1971 when the American Table Tennis Team first visited Shanghai. We did a lot of sightseeing as tourists and played a lot of table tennis. Later in 1972, I had the honour to attend the welcome of former President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in Shanghai during their visit to China. I would always remember my friend George, a man with a big smile, filled with lively energy and high spirit.”

The ceremony was the official dedication of three permanent concrete table tennis tables in Capobianco Field, Roosevelt Island as well as the announcement of The George Braithwaite Community Service Award and Scholarship for high school seniors. It was a fun day packed with table tennis actions, music, dance, and poetry. In addition, free instructions were also available for those who wished to improve their table tennis skills.

“Thanks to the support of the ITTF Foundation and several local sponsors, the event was beautiful. It bought together people from all walks of life to celebrate the extraordinary life of “The Chief” George Braithwaite. I owe my career to the Ping Pong Diplomacy. Without the contribution from people like the Chief and his teammates, I would not have been able to immigrate to America when I was 12 years old. The original Ping Pong Diplomacy opened a door for millions of people, and this event has sets a foundation for many of us in the US to build upon the legacy of The Chief and the ideal of the Ping Pong Diplomacy: bringing peace and prosperity using table tennis.” – Thomas Hu, Event Organizer, CEO of AYTTO.

This event also awakes major media attention for a relatively small sport in America.

As we see more and more local conflicts and divides here in the United States, anti-immigrants, anti-Asain, Black Live Matter, White Supremacy… People starved because of COVID, people died because of COVID! Ping Pong Diplomacy can make a difference again. The Ping Pong ball is the roundest of all the sports.  No matter which angle you look at it, it has the same distance from the centre. This is the ideal game, the ideal world. Everyone was born equal. Once again, we can use this tiny round ball to help make the bigger ball named Earth a smoother place for everyone live on it.

Thank you to all the participants of the event.  You made the event special.  Thank you ITTF Foundation, you helped us make this event possible. I hope we can contribute to your mission of “Peace on the Table”.  The earth is a better place to live ROUND.

About AYTTO: American Youth Table Tennis Organization is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to teaching table tennis, teamwork, and table tennis-related STEM matters to school-aged students. The organisation provides a pathway for young students to learn competitive table tennis and sponsors The George Braithwaite Community Service Award.

About The George Braithwaite Community Service Award: A USD 5,000 scholarship awarded to high school seniors over 18 years who are on track to apply for or are enrolled in an accredited college, university, or technical trade school. Applicants must have demonstrated outstanding contributions to the AYTTO programme, including helping students improve their table tennis skills and sportsmanship, or strengthening, improving, or growing the AYTTO programme itself.

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ITTF Foundation Ping Pong Diplomacy George Braithwaite