A game, usually played indoors but sometimes outdoors for fun or recreation, in which two individuals, or two pairs, use bats or small rackets to strike a ball so that it clears a net that is hung across the centre of a rectangular table. The game was developed in the last two decades of the 19th century in England as a form of miniature lawn tennis at the same time as the latter became established within middle-class and upper-class culture. The sound of a celluloid ball bouncing on the table led to the onomatopoeic label ‘ping-pong’, a term that was quickly patented. Improvised forms of the game were played by undergraduates and army officers, and in the early 20th century the game became a popular craze for children and families.
Attempts to organize competitive forms were hampered by a lack of standardization of the rules, and limited equipment, until more sophisticated rubber coverings were developed for the rubber bats, and an English Table Tennis Association was founded in 1922, an international federation being founded four years later at what was retrospectively acknowledged as the first world championship, held in Berlin. The sport was taken up in youth organizations and youth clubs in the UK, and for players from less privileged backgrounds, such as Fred Perry, became a form of introduction to lawn tennis. The sport became hugely popular in Asian countries, particularly China, and was cultivated as both a recreational and high-performance activity in communist regimes. On the sport's introduction to the Olympics at Seoul in 1988, the host nation won the men's individual gold and the women's doubles; but from 1992 to 2008, China took eight of the ten men's gold medals, and nine of the ten golds for women.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.