Ping Pong Diplomacy

The long history of Ping Pong Diplomacy

In 1971 table tennis played an essential role of reopening the relationship between China and the USA. After China’s Cultural Revolution and the accompanying 6 years absence of China in the world-wide table tennis community, China set a clear signal promoting the 31st World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan under the slogan “Friendship first, competition second”.

To go on, an US athlete only had to miss his team bus and be forced to take the Chinese one for a gift to be exchanged and a journalist to get the perfect picture of a Chinese and an US athlete walking side by side. China followed up inviting the US Team to a training camp, and in 1972 President Nixon finally met Prime Minister Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, a starting point to normalize the diplomatic relations between both countries in 1979.


First unified team formed during the World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan.
The late Mr. Ogimura (ITTF president at that time) was the driving force to make this unified team become reality. He visited both countries a total of 35 times and invited both teams to Japan for a joint training one month before the WTTC. The Unified Women’s Team beat China in the finals to become the top team in the world, which was a thrilling moment in table tennis history.


Ping Pong Diplomacy 2.0 in Qatar: USA and Russia, North and South Korea, India and Pakistan.


Ping Pong Diplomacy 3.0: North and South Korea refused to play against each other at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden. The ITTF and the ITTF Foundation supported the initiative of a Unified Team playing together. A follow up permitted both teams to play together in several tournaments of the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour, leading to the incredible result of winning silver at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.


United Nations Global Refugee Forum: The UN Refugee Agency, the Olympic Refuge Foundation and the International Olympic Committee encouraged the ITTF Foundation to join the initiative of making the world a peaceful as well as a better place for refugees through sport. Together with over 80 major sport organisations, the following three pledges have been signed:

  1. To promote and ensure access for all refugees, without distinction of any kind, to safe and inclusive sporting facilities.
  2. To increase availability and access to organised sports and sport-based initiatives for refugee and hosting communities, actively considering age, gender, ability and other diversity needs.
  3. To promote and facilitate equal access to and participation of refugees in sporting events and competitions at all levels.

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