Demonstration matches show a sport suited for family, friends
More than 200 people gathered at the Killerspin House in Chicago on Saturday to celebrate the 45th anniversary of ping-pong diplomacy between China and the US.
A delegation of Chinese world ping-pong champions over the years drew much attention and enthusiasm at the celebration.
“China-US ping-pong diplomacy created a miracle 45 years ago,” said Hong Lei, Chinese consul general in Chicago, who made the welcoming remarks.
Hong was referring to the encounters between Chinese players and their counterparts on the US team in 1971 that initiated the normalization of bilateral relations between the two countries.
Liang Geliang and Zheng Huaiying were among the six players from China. They were members of the Chinese national team that participated in the 31st World Table Tennis Championships in Nayoga, Japan in 1971.
“I’m so happy that the China-US relations have come this far,” said Liang as he signed autographs for his fans.
“The world is a much better place because we have a better relationship with China,” said Robert Blackwell, chairman of Killerspin.
Blackwell said that while ping-pong is not one of the top sports in the US, it is a major activity for family and friends.
He established Killerspin 15 years ago to promote ping-pong as a fun way to connect and engage with people. Killerspin also has hosted events for the 30th and 40th anniversaries of ping-pong diplomacy.
Member of the Chinese delegation played demonstration matches and invited people from the audience to play as well.
An avid ping-pong player himself, Hong teamed up with Yan Sen, a world champion, to play a doubles match against Wang Hao, another world champion, and Yang Jieyi, secretary general of the Friendship Association of US-China People-to-People Ping-Pong Diplomacy.
Qiao Hong and Ding Ning, two world champions, also were among the visiting players. The audience was awed by Ding Ning’s high serves, which no one from the audience could return.
Other demonstration matches included doubles, Liang Geliang/Felipa Morita (Killerspin) vs Zheng Huaiying/Ilija Lupulesku (Killerspin) and singles, Wang Hao vs Yan Sen and Wang Hao vs Ding Ning.
The enthusiasm and cheers from the audience were palpable throughout the event.
“I think that all the things we celebrated 45 years ago, we should remember today,” said David Whitaker, president and CEO of Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism office.
“The heart of the US-China relationship is trust and friendship,” Whitaker added.
The delegation also celebrated the anniversary at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on Friday and will continue its journey to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before heading back to China.
The delegation is headed by Wang Jiarui, vice-president of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.