Table tennis is a sport that was first played about 150 years ago. The fast ball changes make them modern and rousing today. However, these attributes were not as pronounced at the beginning as they are today. But table tennis was attractive early on to be included in the canon of Olympic sports. It has since become an integral part of the Summer Olympics. In this context, the question arises: When did table tennis become Olympic?
Table tennis is a popular sport in Asian countries. So it is certainly no coincidence that table tennis competitions were held for the first time at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
In the run-up to the Olympic Games, the first attempt to include the sport in the canon did not take place. Already in the first half of the 20th century there were these efforts. This was preceded by the formation of the International Table Tennis Federation in 1926. Since then, the sport has had the necessary structures to represent such interests. In 1931, the ITTF planned for the first time to make its sport Olympic. A crucial question had to be clarified: should table tennis be included in the programme of the Summer or Winter Olympic Games? The then Presidium decided against an assignment to the Winter Olympics.
IOC does not recognise table tennis
But that was not the only question that prevented inclusion in the program of Olympic sports at that time. The structures were also questioned. The allocation of players to the categories amateur and professional was not clearly defined. That is why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not yet recognized the sport at this time. Moreover, the rulebook did not seem attractive enough. The then ITTF president Ivor Montagu did not want to change the sport so that it fits into the grid of Olympic sports. It was only in the 1960s that his successor, Roy Evans, worked hard to make the sport Olympic.
After World War II, the National Olympic Committees were divided on how to proceed. Most countries were in favour of table tennis becoming Olympic – Czechoslovakia was a vehement opponent of these efforts. In the 1960s and 1970s, no decisive progress could be made either, even if there was the will to do so.
Sport is changing
It was not until 1981 that the ITTF provided clarity on the classification of players. The definition of amateur and professional athletes was included in the statutes of the association, which led to a breakthrough. This was followed for the first time by the IOC.
Since 1988, table tennis has been a part of the Olympic Games, where the disciplines have been partly changed. At the beginning there were competitions in singles and doubles. In the meantime, the double was replaced by games in the team standings. From the upcoming Olympic Games (2020 Tokyo) there will also be a mixed ranking.
In answering the question “When did table tennis become Olympic?” we saw that it was a complex process that also played a role at the political level. The ITTF did not want to change its sport too much, only for it to comply with the statutes of the Intenational Olympic Committee. In the end, however, this was necessary in a moderate form. Given the success of table tennis at the Olympic Games, no one should regret this decision today.
International Sport Management, Ming Li Eric Macintosh, Gonzalo Bravo