15 Dec 2021

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original event, the ITTF Group has declared 2021 and 2022 the biennial of Ping Pong Diplomacy.

We find ourselves halfway through the commemoration as 2021 is coming to an end, while a new page of Ping Pong Diplomacy has just begun.

“Ping Pong Diplomacy can help to bring down barriers and promote understanding between individuals. I felt very honoured and excited that table tennis was used as the catalyst to build bridges between the USA and China in 1971 and 1972. It was an opportunity to showcase the power of table tennis as we sought to understand each other, prevent conflicts and move toward peace.” – Connie Sweeris, an original member of the US Table Tennis team in 1971.

While most of the world knows Ping Pong Diplomacy as the US-China table tennis exchange in 1971 and 1972, creating dialogues and building friendships through our favourite sport has always been the underlying spirit of the worldwide table tennis community from 1971 to 2021.

This is the time to commemorate the legacy of Ping Pong Diplomacy, as we continue to make new ones.

1991 ping pong diplomacy unifying the Republic of Korea and DPR Korea
The Unified Korea team

Table tennis is one of the first sports unifying the Republic of Korea and DPR Korea.

For the first time in history in 1991, during the World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan, the two Koreas competed as one women’s team that spectacularly defeated the seemingly invincible Chinese team. With the support of the ITTF and ITTF Foundation, the Unified Korea team has played in multiple international tournaments since then.

  • World Table Tennis Championships, Chiba, Japan 1991
  • Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup, Qatar 2011
  • World Team Table Tennis Championships, Halmstad, Sweden, 2018
  • Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour
  • ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, 2018
2011 Qatar Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup Korea Unified
Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup, Qatar 2011

Organised by the Qatar Table Tennis Association, the Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup has seen the two Koreas partnered up again. In addition to the Unified Korea team, USA and Russia, India and Pakistan also competed as pairs.

2009 Colombia PingPongPaz
Table Tennis for Peace

Not only is Ping Pong Diplomacy a strong facilitator on the states level, it is also a powerful enabler in peace-making and conflict resolution on a grassroots level.

The ITTF Development project Table Tennis for Peace has used table tennis as a tool to create dialogues and build friendships.

Ping Pong Diplomacy at 2021 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Houston
China-US pair in Mixed Doubles

Recently ended, the World Table Tennis Championships Finals 2021 in Houston, Texas saw China and the United States join forces with two pairs competing in Mixed Doubles.

Ping Pong Diplomacy Recognitions

Five ITTF Member Associations – USA, China, Republic of Korea, DPR Korea, and Japan have received the Ping Pong Diplomacy Recognitions for their remarkable contribution towards peace-making through table tennis in the past 50 years.

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.

  • USA Table Tennis and China Table Tennis Association – As the main organisations involved in the original Ping Pong Diplomacy event in 1971 and 1972, both associations were recognised as being the accelerators behind the friendly exchange that broke nearly 20 years of no economic nor diplomatic relations between the two countries.
  • Korea Table Tennis Association and DPR Korea – 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.
  • Japan Table Tennis Association – Recognised for its non-dismissible role in the 1971 USA‑China Ping Pong Diplomacy and the Unified Korea teams 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 would not have been able to play if the Japanese national team had not agreed to skip the quarter-final in 2018.
World Table Tennis Day
World Table Tennis Day 2022

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy, the upcoming World Table Tennis Day 2022 focuses on using table tennis for peace-making both on the states and grassroots level. There will be hundreds of creative events worldwide around April 6, all aiming to bring peace around the tables, as well as to build diplomatic and friendly relations between nations and individuals.

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