Learning about Olympic ping pong history may impress your next date or give you the winning answer on bar trivia night. You never know. But just remember, people "in" with the sport will call it table tennis.
The sport of ping-pong has its origin in English lawn tennis. (Pretentious sounding, isn't it?) While it's not well-documented, but late in the 19th century, people decided to get off the lawns and onto the tables. Maybe the grass-stains got to be too much. Finally, by 1922, official rules were developed and four years later, the International Table Tennis Federation was formed. It would be a long time before Olympic ping-pong would come to be official, over six decades to be exact.
At the Berlin games of 1936, ping-pong was presented as a demonstration sport. But we all know that's not as cool as the real competitions. For the next several decades there was much work going on with the International Table Tennis Federation to get recognition as an official Olympic sport, but it was often met with much resistance. In 1988, Olympic table tennis finally made its debut at the games in Seoul, Korea. Both men's and women's singles and doubles were played. Korea took the top two spots for the men's singles and China swept the medal stand for women's singles. The Beijing games in 2008 saw the introduction of men's and women's team events with the host country winning the gold in every ping pong category. While the USA has never won a medal, get cracking on those ping pong skills and maybe you'll be the first. You never know.
Olympic table tennis has some pretty strict rules when it comes to equipment. All racquets are coated in a rubber material to create low friction with the ball to reduce the spinning effect. Balls are made of plastic and must have a specific diameter of 40 millimeters and weigh exactly 2.7 grams.
Next time you're out with the boys, impress them with your newly-imparted knowledge of Olympic ping pong history. Or table tennis, that is.