Joanna Parker, alongside Paul Drinkhall, helped launch Ping
Photo By: Adel Hakouz
2012 Olympic Games
The destination was Terminal Three at London’s Heathrow Airport for Paul Drinkhall and Joanna Parker, Great Britain’s representatives in the respective Men’s and Women’s Singles events in the ExCel Arena at the forthcoming Olympic Games.
However, no passport was needed, no boarding pass was issued; they were going nowhere.
They were present to promote the launch of “Ping”.
Now in its third year, it is an initiative which sees cities in the United Kingdom place table tennis tables in parks, railways stations and similar centres, where the public gathers.
A total of 700 table tennis tables have been erected with Bristol, Liverpool, Brighton, Sheffield, Leicester, the New Forest and London being the featured cities.
Paul Drinkhall and Joanna Parker gave the project the initial spark on Wednesday 27th June with Friday 29th June being the official launch date.
Both 2010 and 2011 saw the public flock to play table tennis and of course in 2012, there is an added bonus; the world’s stars of the sport will be in London’s ExCeL Arena for the Olympic Games and then the Paralympic Games.
Quick to Test Skills
At Terminal Three, the table tennis tables were soon in demand. Airport staff and public alike were quick to test their skills!
“As you see in Heathrow Airport loads of people have stopped and played and they’re having great fun”, said Paul Drinkhall. “Hopefully once they’ve seen this they’ll watch the Olympics and watch table tennis and after that maybe get involved and go into clubs and get their children or their brothers and sisters involved; I think Ping is doing a great job putting tables out in public places.”
Certainly, at one of the world’s busiest airports it was all smiles.
Everybody Wants to Play
“I think everybody wants to play table tennis, everybody has said they’ve already played or played on holiday but they just sometimes struggle with the opportunity and they don’t know where to play”, added Paul Drinkhall. “With the opportunity just to walk to wherever it is closest to you and play on a table outside with your friends for free, it’s just a great opportunity for everyone and I hope it gets used well.”
Everybody has Played
Positive words from Paul Drinkhall and they were echoed by Joanna Parker.
“If you ask around, everyone has played table tennis at some point but I think people don’t really know where to go to play regularly”, she said. “Something like Ping is bringing the tables to the people so I think you’ll see a lot more people playing and hopefully that will then inspire them to go and find a club.”
Both Paul Drinkhall and Joanna Parker highlight what is arguably a problem in the United Kingdom for table tennis.
The golf club, the cricket club, the football club, the tennis club; they are easy to find; as for the table tennis club, is that too often a table on the sports centre balcony?
Table Tennis is Fun
“One of the great things about table tennis it’s the kind of sport anyone can play at any level and have fun doing it”, added Joanna Parker. “They’re going to public places like city centres and airports so it’s not directed at one specific type of person.”
Rackets and balls are provided free of charge so that anyone can play at anytime. In addition the programme includes: “Random Acts of Ping Pong” as well as “Master Classes”, “Musical Ping” and “Meet Your Match” singles.
Spreading the Spirit
“Ping has proved to be one of our most successful sports participation projects attracting over 100,000 participants to date”, explained Richard Lewis, the Chairman of Sport England. “Together with Sing and the English Table Tennis Association we can spread the Olympic and Paralympic spirit throughout the country and help people create a sporting legacy for life.”
“Ping London” followed the concept of “Sing London”, the aim being to encourage everyone to sing; the idea proved a success and then spread to other cities in the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, Ping very much supports Olympic ideals.
“In 2005 when Sebastian Coe went to Singapore with the team to present the London 2012 Olympic bid we promised to do one thing in particular, which was to increase the number of people playing sport in this country”, explained Phil Smith, Director of Sport at Sport England . “At the moment that’s going quite well and in table tennis that’s going very well indeed; in the last four years the number of people playing table tennis regularly in this country has almost doubled and in the large part it’s due to this project.”
The project also engenders the important Olympic concept of legacy; what happens when it’s all over?
Long Term Effect
“We’re hoping that it will be the direct contribution to the London 2012 Olympic legacy”, continued Phil Smith. “So anybody who is playing today, for the rest of this week, anybody who picks up a bat for the rest of this year, don’t let anybody tell you that you have not seen the legacy of the London Games because you are in it and this is it.”
Chief Executive Delightes
In London, 51 table tennis tables have been placed in public locations; a fact which delights Richard Yule, the Chief Executive of the English Table Tennis Association, who has witnessed the hours of hard work and the assistance from “Sing London” to make the project possible.
“This is something that’s completely different in terms of normal sports development projects but we’re delighted to be a part of it; this would not have been possible without the financial support from Sport England to enable us to actually scale up the project to reach thousands and thousands of people”, enthused Richard Yule. “Phil Smith, congratulations on having the foresight and the courage to support this project with the level of funding that you have done. It wouldn’t have happened without your support.”
Different and successful, Ping is underway, Olympic principles are in action.
Supported by National Lottery
Ping! is once again backed by National Lottery investment from Sport England, as part of its work to deliver a lasting legacy beyond London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.