How It Works:

Table tennis was developed as an indoor version of lawn tennis after the latter became popular during the 1880s. The first use of the name “table tennis” appeared on a board and dice game by J.H. Singer of New York in 1887. The earliest evidence of an action game of tennis played on a table was a set made by David Foster and patented in England in 1890. It featured strung rackets, a cloth-covered rubber ball, a wooden fence around the perimeter of the table and large nets extending along both sides. One year later British sporting goods manufacturer John Jaques released the game Gossima which included a 30cm high net and a webbed wrapped cork ball along with drum-style rackets. Neither Foster’s nor Jaques’ games caught on, due to the ineffectiveness of the balls. The future of the game changed in 1900 when the celluloid ball was introduced. Jaques revived his game and changed the name to “ping pong”, which was derived from the sound of the ball bouncing off the sheepskin or parchment drum-style rackets.

Photo: The Canadian Press

There were hopes to have table tennis included on the Olympic program for the 1940 Games to be held in Tokyo. But once those Games were cancelled table tennis did not figure into Olympic plans for another 40 years. At the 84th IOC Session in 1981, table tennis was admitted to the Olympic program for Seoul 1988. The sport debuted with singles and doubles events for men and women. Beginning at Beijing 2008, the doubles events were replaced with team events. Table tennis has been on the Pan American Games program since 1979.

Under the current rules, the playing surface of the table is 2.74m long, 1.525m wide and stands 76cm above the floor. The top of the net stands 15.25cm above the playing surface. The ball is 40mm in diameter and weighs just 2.7 grams.