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Table Tennis

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Table tennis started as a genteel, after-dinner game, but is now a fast, high-tech sport. It also has the most participants of any sport in the world.

High society origins

It is thought that upper-class Victorians in England invented table tennis in the 1880s as a genteel, after-dinner alternative to lawn tennis, using whatever they could find as equipment. A line of books would often be the net, the rounded top of a champagne cork would be the ball and occasionally a cigar box lid would be a racket.

Evolution

In 1926, meetings were held in Berlin and London that led to the formation of the International Table Tennis Federation. The first World Championships were held in London in 1926, but the sport had to wait a long time before it was given its Olympic debut at the 1988 Seoul Games.

Modern changes

The sport has progressed enormously since it was first invented.  Nowadays, players use specially developed rubber-coated wooden and carbon-fibre rackets and a lightweight, hollow celluloid ball. Thanks to their high-tech rackets, they can now smash the ball at over 150 kilometres per hour!

Popular appeal

It is estimated there are 40 million competitive table tennis players and countless millions playing recreationally, making it the sport with the most participants worldwide. This is largely owing to its enormous popularity in China, which has become the dominant force in the sport.

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Gallery

Table Tennis - Men's Team
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Table Tennis - Men's Team

Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura of Japan compete during the Men's Table Tennis gold medal match against Xin Xu and Jike Zhang of People's Republic of China at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
Table Tennis - Men's Team
Image Alt Text

Table Tennis - Men's Team

Bastian Steger and Timo Boll of Germany in action in the doubles match during the Men's Team Bronze Medal match between Republic of Korea and Germany at the Rio Centro Pavilion on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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Table Tennis - Men's Team
Image Alt Text

Table Tennis - Men's Team

Xin Xu and Jike Zhang of People's Republic of China compete during the Men's Table Tennis gold medal match against Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura of Japan at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
Table Tennis - Men's Team
Image Alt Text

Table Tennis - Men's Team

Xin Xu and Jike Zhang of People's Republic of China compete during the Men's Table Tennis gold medal match against Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura of Japan at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
Table Tennis - Men's Team
Image Alt Text

Table Tennis - Men's Team

Bastian Steger and Timo Boll of Germany celebrate winning the doubles match during the Men's Team Bronze Medal match between Republic of Korea and Germany at the Rio Centro Pavilion on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
Table Tennis - Men's Team
Image Alt Text

Table Tennis - Men's Team

Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura of Japan compete during the Men's Table Tennis gold medal match against Xin Xu and Jike Zhang of People's Republic of China at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
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