Ping Pong diplomacy was a table tennis revolution that held in 1971. The name “Ping Pong diplomacy” was made famous by the media around the world. 1971 is a significant year in the history of table tennis. China stunned the world when they invited the England, USA, Colombian and Canadian table tennis teams. The aim was to organize a series of friendly table tennis matches between these countries.
Back in 1960s, China’s contact with the rest of the world was limited and there was a tension between China and America in particular. It’s also said that China only decided to invite the USA to visit them for a series of friendly table tennis matches to strengthen their bonds.
There are many stories behind the Ping Pong diplomacy, but the most popular one is, on April 5, 1971, one of the US players, came out of the practice hall and started looking for the shuttle buses which would take him to the tournament stadium. However, the only bus waiting outside was the one used mainly by the Chinese entourage.
The US player, Glenn Cowan, was immediately offered a ride. He accepted the offer and after an initial period of silence, Zhuang Zedong, the three times singles world championsip, presented Cowan a silk-screen portarait of the Huangshan Mountains. Zhuang was also one of the most senior Chinese players at that time.
When both the players stepped out of the bus at the stadium, they caught the eyes of many people and especially, photographers. Their pictures were clicked together and spread like a wildfire around the world. Due to all the publicity, Cowan thought he got an opportunity so he went shopping and bought a gift for Zhuang Zedong in return. The gift he bought was a simple T-shirt with a peach symbol in the corner of a painted American flag.
Media played a quintessential role here and the whole affair was publicised more widely. Following the friendly exchange of gifts, the Chinese decided to invite the Americans to China.
However, this was one of the many reasons behind the ocurrence of the Ping Pong diplomacy. Other theories state that the political forces were responsible for the affair and everything was planned but made to appear spontaneous.
Ping Pong diplomacy is still counted as one of the most revolutionary affairs in the history of table tennis and sports, which united the east and the west.