It’s not Ping Pong — it’s Table Tennis!

A friend recently challenged me to a game of ping pong, an activity that I once thought that I was good at, but had since been dissuaded of that obviously incorrect opinion after countless beatings. Still I was idle and it sounded like a good way to spend the afternoon.

I knew I was in trouble right away, not so much for the paddle that he used or the way he examined each ball, but rather because he started to discuss the members of the U.S. Table Tennis team and their chances in the upcoming Summer Olympics.

I am not sure of I knew that t was still an Olympic sport (it has been since 1988). My memories of it being televised are from the movie “Forest Gump” and a vague recollection of Ping Pong Diplomacy when Richard Nixon was president.

This piqued my interest so after the inevitable slaughter I did a bit of research and was somewhat amazed at the depth and breadth of the sport’s acceptance. A brief recap from Wikipedia shows that governing body is the International Table Tennis Federation founded in 1926, that the ITTF has 217 member associates and that the game originated in Great Britain in the 1880s and that recently the ball’s size was expanded to slow the game down, from 38 mm to 40 mm.

In the US the USA Table Tennis is the governing body and has been since 1933 and features 250 clubs and 9,000 official members and an estimated 2 million play it annually. It sanctions 300 tournaments a year, operates a league system and the rating system for players and teams, among other activities. Oh, and it oversees the U.S. Olympic team.

The trials have already been held, in April to be exact, and the one man and three women players have been selected from the trials held in Cary, N.C. On the U.S. team there will be Ariel Hsing, Erica Wu, Lilly Zhang and Timothy Wang.
An interesting footnote is that three of the players, Zhang, Wang and Hsing all train at the India Community Center Table Tennis Center in Milpitas, Calif.

Grantland had a very nice piece on the sport a while back that focused on a player that did not qualify. I recommend heading over if you are interested in what the life is like in a sport that does not draw in the big money but still has players that love it.

If you do decide to watch the Table Tennis at the Olympics rather than a more mainstream sport the matches will start on Sunday July 28 and run to Wednesday Aug. 8. There will be men’s and women’s singles as well as team events. China is the defending champion, having swept all four golds in 2008.

NBC Launches Olympics Site, Pledges to ‘Stream Everything’ Online

Call it the fully online Olympics: In a news release today NBC said it would put as many events as possible from this year’s Summer Olympics online, often live as they happen from London. “If cameras are on it, we’ll stream it,” said Rick Cordella, vice president and general manager of NBC Sports Digital Media, in a report from the New York Times. The content will be offered free at, a new site which launched Wednesday with the games 100 days away.

With digital viewing of live sports on the increase everywhere, it’s no surprise that NBC is going to show as much of the Olympics as it can. With high-profile partners like Cisco and AT&T helping flesh out the technical infrastructure, NBC should be well prepared for the expected online onslaught. Like the Masters and other events occuring over long periods of time at non-U.S. prime time hours, the Olympics are tailor-made for asynchronous viewing on mobile platforms. You could even say that the Olympics are the perfect event for online, on-demand viewing since many of the sports aren’t mainstream but have devoted followers who for years had to go through bizarre hoops just to find coverage of their beloved events, like curling or equestrian.

And it’s a good bet that people who watch an event live on a mobile platform will return later that day or the next day to watch a produced version of the event on the regular TV shows; so far all stats for online viewerships show that having more content online only increases the regular broadcast audience of an event.