The Recognitions were awarded by the ITTF and ITTF Foundation at the Peace Through Sport Dinner Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy in Houston, Texas.
“Peace is not only the absence of conflict. We would like to recognise the significant role of the five Member Associations in Ping Pong Diplomacy during the last 50 years. Their dedication and effort in using table tennis for peace and understanding make them great role models for all ITTF Member Associations.” Thomas Weikert, former ITTF and ITTF Foundation President.
As the main organisations involved in the original Ping Pong Diplomacy event in 1971 and 1972, USA Table Tennis and China Table Tennis Association were the accelerators behind the friendly exchange that broke a nearly 20 years of no economic nor diplomatic relations between the two countries. Since then, not only have the USA and China kick-started collaborations and friendship, Ping Pong Diplomacy has also become a worldwide known term for creating dialogues and building bridges through table tennis.
In addition, China Table Tennis Association was also recognised for its generosity in sharing its table tennis skills with other countries since 1971.
“As the inspiration of the famous motto Friendship First, Competition Second, we would also like to recognise China Table Tennis Association for traveling all over the world to share their expertise. The first training camp was joined by Australia, Canada, Colombia, England, Nigeria, and many more that were done not only in their home countries.” Leandro Olvech, ITTF Foundation Director.
In the past 50 years, Ping Pong Diplomacy has proven to be more than the Sino-American relationship, it is the platform to unite nations in and through table tennis.
Witnessed by guests including Christopher Nixon Cox and Neil Bush, respectively grandson of President Richard Nixon and son of President George Bush, representatives from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Korea Table Tennis Association and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were also recognised for their courageous act in 1991 to compete as one team instead of against each other despite the ongoing war between the two countries.
“30 years ago at the World Championships in Chiba, Japan, Korea Table Tennis Association and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea showed the world the uniting force of table tennis. Together they were stronger, as the Unified Korea team became the 1991 World Champions.” Leandro Olvech.
The two Koreas joined forces again at the 2011 Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup in Qatar, and the 2018 World Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden. The ITTF Foundation project One Korea, One Table then became the driving force behind both teams playing together in several tournaments of the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour.
Japan Table Tennis Association has received recognition for its non-dismissible role in the 1971 USA-China Ping Pong Diplomacy and the Unified Korea team in 1991 and 2018. The former Japanese ITTF President Ichiro Ogimura, also known as the Ping Pong Diplomat, was one of the key facilitators behind the first Unified Korea team in 1991. And the Unified Korea team in the 2018 World Championships would not have been able to play if the Japanese national team had not agreed.
“Thank you Japan for being a constant actor in the 50 years of Ping Pong Diplomacy. You remind the world that we are in this together. We are stronger united and with the support of friends, we are able to achieve greater good than on our own.” Leandro Olvech.
In 2018, the Japanese national team took a huge risk by skipping the quarterfinal results of the World Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden and agreed to compete directly in the semi-finals against a stronger team. This has allowed the Unified Korea to play as one team, and thus became another legacy of Ping Pong Diplomacy.
By recognising the contribution of the five ITTF Member Associations towards Ping Pong Diplomacy, we encourage all Member Associations to use table tennis as a platform for dialogues and peace, both on the states and on the grassroots level.