Okay, let me be upfront: I’m not a big fan of Olympic table tennis. It’s not going to be at the top of my list to watch during the games. Most sports I respect, even if they don’t interest me. I acknowledge that table tennis requires an enormous amount of skill and agility. The sport is also quite different from when it was first considered for Olympic inclusion in 1936, as it now requires more athleticism. Nevertheless, I struggle with table tennis being an Olympic sport, and I’ll tell you why.
While table tennis is played on a recreational level worldwide, the number of countries who have players good enough to be on the competitive level is quite small. When I looked at the current world rankings for the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), 20 of the top 30 men were from Asian countries, with the top five, all from China. For women’s current rankings, 26 of the top 30 are from Asian countries, with China in the top four slots. Of the 76 medals awarded in Olympic table tennis (since 1988), 41 have been awarded to China, and another 17 to South Korea. Disparity in sports has become a hot topic in Olympic Sports. In 2010, IOC President Jacques Rogge stated that there was too much disparity in women’s hockey. He said that North American countries dominate the sport and alluded to the possibility of it being removed from the Olympics. Women’s softball has already been taken out of the Olympics for this reason, and other sports have faced difficulty in becoming Olympic sports for this very reason. Is there really enough of a competitive field in table tennis to merit inclusion into the Olympics? I don’t think so.
I’m going to make a bold and daring prediction regarding table tennis at the 2012 Olympics: China will win gold in men’s, women’s, and team table tennis, and it will also win the majority of all table tennis medals.
Published with permission from The Olympic Fanatic.