Ping pong: picnic in the park

Ping Pong is enjoying a moment in Dubai and this month the game gets a further boost as the renowned Chinese National Table Tennis Team gets on board to grow the game in the emirate’s parks

Some 200 million people around the globe play table tennis. Although the sport has been made famous recently by Hollywood celebrities and Olympians alike, it is one of the world’s most accessible games, cheap to play and easy to set up in both outdoor and indoor urban spaces. A strategy to boost public participation in the game sees the tables installed on a free to use basis. Non-profit venture Ping Pong Dubai, which currently has a healthy following of 13,000 Facebook fans, aims to demonstrate that table tennis is a fun and social way to be more active.

In a winning move, the Chinese National Table Tennis Team has joined forces with leading UAE players to launch the next stage of community programme Ping Pong Dubai, which will see tables installed in green spaces throughout the city. The Dubai-sponsored Chinese National Table Tennis Team helped launch Ping Pong Dubai in May 2013 and is now supporting its latest stage, which launched at Safa Park with a UAE-China exhibition match and coaching master class attended by local youngsters and table tennis enthusiasts.

“To meet the world’s best players and watch them play can have a huge influence on youngsters. Hopefully it will inspire them to practice more and become the best players they can be,” says UAE professional player Majd Albalooshi, who took part in the launch along with team-mate Abdullah Al Mohaiseni.

Chinese National Table Tennis Team member Zhang Jike, winner of the 2012 London Olympics gold medal, was also helping to whip up excitement for the game in Safa Park on Wednesday, along with teammates Ma Long, the world No 1 men’s player, Liu Shiwen, the world No 1 women’s player, and Li Xiao Xia, the 2012 London Olympics gold winner.

“It is always pleasing for us to see table tennis being developed in other countries and witnessing people sharing in China’s passion for the sport,” comments Zhang. “It is very exciting to see the impact Ping Pong Dubai is having. Table tennis can be enjoyed by anyone – no matter their age, ability or fitness level – and having tables in public parks captures this spirit.”

The first stage of the programme sees tables introduced at Al Mamzar, Al Barsha, Al Wasl and Mushrif Parks and further tables will be rolled out in additional parks in the coming months. This new outdoor initiative helps the game ascend the popularity rankings while offering an innovative playing experience—a win by any measure.