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Table tennis

Table tennis is derived from lawn tennis and was initially played as after-dinner entertainment among upper-class English families who would use whatever they could find as equipment. At the time, they would place books on the table as the net, using the lids of cigar boxes for rackets and a rounded-off cork from a champagne bottle as the ball. The equipment evolved over time, and in 1926, competitions were organised in Berlin and London, giving rise to the first world championships, which were held in London that same year. Enormously popular in Asia, specifically in China, table tennis is played by over 40 million people around the globe, making it the sport with the most participants worldwide.

Brief overview of the rules

Table tennis is played on a table divided into two halves by a net in the middle, using an extremely lightweight ball and sophisticated rackets comprising a wooden blade coated on both sides with rubber or carbon fibre.

Singles matches are played over the best of seven games, with the first player to 11 points (by a margin of two clear points) winning each game. Team matches consist of four singles matches and one doubles match, each played over the best of five games. Each team consists of three players and matches end when a team has won three individual games. In doubles matches, players take turns to hit the ball.

Olympic history

Table tennis first appeared at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, with men’s and women’s singles and doubles. In 2008, the doubles competition was replaced with the team competition, and the programme has been expanded for the 2020 Tokyo Games to include mixed doubles, bringing the number of events to a total of five, allowing to have the same number of women and men to take part to the olympic table tennis competitions.

Up until the mid-20th century, the sport was dominated by central European countries such as Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. However, since table tennis integrated the Olympic programme in Seoul in 1988, it has primarily been Chinese athletes who have prevailed, winning 32 of the 37 gold medals awarded.

Events in 2024

The table tennis events will take place between the 27th of July and the 10th of August.

  • Singles (women’s / men’s)
  • Team (women’s / men’s)
  • Mixed Doubles (mixed)

Venue in 2024

International organisation

International federation : International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)

© Steph Chambers/Getty Images

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