National: Ping pong - leisurely alternative to frenzy of TV sports
We have been treated to many a display of nationalistic pride this summer and, blessed folk that we are, no doubt have many more to come. But, if you have strangely missed the diamond jubilee and be thinking about going awol during the Olympics, you could have done worse than stop from the Town of London yesterday.
For there, impervious to the opprobrium of Sir Mervyn King and oblivious to revelations of rate swaps and structured collars, was an event so spectacularly English that nothing - except possibly Boris Johnson barrelling in using bunting in his hair and shouting"whiff-whaff!" - could've been done to enhance its allure that was anglophile.
Held heroically amid summer showers this year's launching of Ping! , pictured right, - the Sports England-funded drive to get us indulging in a little light batting - heralded the arrival of ping pong tables throughout the country, from Brighton beach to Bristol Cathedral and Birmingham's Spaghetti Junction.
For the previous three decades, Ping! Has been growing, from 100 pubs in 2010 to 400 final year and 700 this summer. And, interestingly, it has revealed very commendable levels of citizenship: of 4,000 bats distributed in London in 2010, only 50 weren't returned.
Based on organizer Colette Hillier of Sing London, this demonstrates that"fun will bring out the best in you". Either that or they are just not worth keeping. Denis, a player at the start, bemoaned the caliber of both balls and table:"French rubbish!" I believe he had brought his violin.
Etiquette aside, clearly, the big idea of Ping! Is to bridge the gap between the incredible athletic feats being aired on television this summer (for an average of 13 hours per day, in case you were wondering) and ussitting on the sofa, watching it on tv while doing our own personal best in crisp-eating. Which is all well and good, but isn't ping pong a bit, well, leisurely? How to hold a ping pong paddle correctly for newbie? everything you need will reservice soon
A few weeks ago I watched a hipsterish young man in Spitalfields play with a pleasing rally while speaking during on his mobile phone. His conversation seemed it is reasonable to saya fantastic deal more vigorous than his batting.
"There are plenty of people doing things which get you a bit sweatier," conceded Phil Smith of Sports England,"but finally ping pong is among the most accessible sports... It is the kind of sport you're able to play straight off - [whether you are ] old or young, bad or good - and probably have a nice game."
Undoubtedly so. But as far as I could see yesterday, the launch's doughty participants offered most notably those two principles of any English sporting event: valiant effort and, with a few notable exceptions, woeful underperformance.
Balls went flying and things were awarded"to get tenacity". But, for Dzaier Neil, a 54-year-old Paralympian who competed from the Beijing Games! The project was exactly what Britain needs to resuscitate its ping pong talent.
"We must market it more," she said, taking shelter during a sudden downpour. "We have to make it even more inclusive, and get away from what we did after we won the Olympic bid, which was to try to find'the' player. We concentrated too much on that, instead of getting lots of people involved at the grassroots."
Neil remembers her trip to China in 2008 when she saw to her joy that there were concrete tables"anyplace in public areas" so people can pick up a bat and practice each time they want. "The contemporary home of ping pong is China," she explained.
Nearby, Chuan Liu, a Chinese sport journalist, confirmed her opinion. "When I was young, eight or nine years old, the first thing we did after school was going to the tables," he recalled.
Sadly, Liu was not a living example of the way this ubiquity of tables prompted a generation to chop and flick with unparalleled skill. For question: What is the Standard size of a ping pong table? please check out this article.
"I'm terrible," he said, standing at a careful distance from the guys in golden leggings and talking as though remembering profound childhood trauma." [ping pong] is a terrible experience for me personally."
I was unconvinced, though. Perhaps he really was bad. Or perhaps he'd only been in England long enough to pick up that additional national pastime - false modesty.
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