No milk, no sugar. Just bats, battering, and a bit of a racket. And my thanks, as ever, to, for additional facts and figures.

Today, we’ll be looking at the following sports, lined up for the program of London 2012:
Table Tennis, Taekwondo, and Tennis.

Table Tennis

Table Tennis

Table tennis (or Ping-Pong, as it is commonly known) is believed to have started as a genteel, after-dinner game, in England of the late 1800s. Upper-class Victorians would use improvised equipment on dining room tables to play an indoor alternative to lawn tennis.

Around 1900, when celluloid balls began to replace rubber and cork balls, the game became very popular in England and the United States. Early manufactured sets were called Gossima, Whiff-Waff, and Ping-Pong – the latter being a patented trade name.

In 1926, meetings held in Berlin and London led to the formation of the International Table Tennis Federation. In that same year, the first World Championships were held.

The sport has evolved greatly, since its invention. Players now use specially developed rubber-coated wooden and carbon-fiber rackets and a lightweight, hollow celluloid ball. With the current technology, they can smash the ball at over 150 kilometers per hour.

It is estimated there are 40 million competitive table tennis players and countless millions playing recreationally, making it the sport with the most participants worldwide. This is largely due to its enormous popularity in China, which has become a dominant force in the sport.

Table tennis was given its Olympic debut at the 1988 Games, in Seoul.

Singles and team titles are competed for, in both the men’s and women’s events.



The Korean word “tae” means “foot”, “kwon” means “hand”, and “do” means “the way of”. So, the name taekwondo literally means “the way of hand and foot.” Unarmed combat, in other words.

In the earliest human settlements, the need to capture but not kill invading enemies forced the development of non-lethal forms of fighting. Those members of the community without military training or weapons had to develop a system of defense that could be used when no weapon was at hand.

Wall paintings of the Kokuryo Dynasty (AD 37 to 668) depict the first evidence of unarmed warfare in the Korean peninsula.

At the beginning of the Silla Dynasty, the Hwa rang – a young warrior caste, skilled in archery, sword-fighting, horse-riding, and unarmed combat – demonstrated their skills in an annual national festival, which took place in July and August.

In the Koryo Dynasty (AD 953 to 1392), martial or military arts were systematized and taught to the Korean armed forces, under the name soo bahk.

Flash forward, to the Japanese occupation of Korea (1907 – 1945), during which time the practice of native Korean martial arts was at first suppressed. Later – when Koreans were inducted into the Japanese armed forces – Japanese martial arts like karate, aikido, and kendo were adapted and incorporated into the Korean systems.

At the end of World War II, a division occurred between the five major martial arts academies in Korea. An ideological split, between those who wished to preserve the martial art character of their schools, and those interested in developing a combat sport.

After the first sporting championships of 1956, an umbrella body known as the Korean Taesoodo Association was formed. In 1965, the body changed its name to the Korean Taekwondo Association, on the recommendation of General Choi Hong Hi.

In 1972, the Association founded the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), and based it in Seoul. The first world championships of taekwondo were held there, in 1973.

WTF?? Yes, I know.

Incidentally, I studied the discipline under the auspices of the Taekwondo Association of Great Britain (TAGB), when I was at university. A story for another time.

Taekwondo is noted for its spectacular kicking techniques – often executed while jumping or spinning.

For competition purposes, combatants wear padded headgear, chest plates, and gloves, for added protection.

At Olympic level, taekwondo made its debut as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Games, and became an official medal sport at the 2000 Games, in Sydney.

For London 2012, the schedule of bouts looks something like this:


+ 80 kg men
– 58 kg men
58 – 68 kg men
68 – 80 kg men


+ 67 kg women
– 49 kg women
49 – 57 kg women
57 – 67 kg women



The earliest recognizable relative to tennis, as we know it, was “jeu de paume”, a game of 11th century France. Played in a monastery courtyard, the players used the walls and sloping roofs as part of the court and the palm of the hand to hit the ball.

Many experts believe tennis – then called lawn tennis – was invented in 1873 by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, a British army officer. Although Wingfield claimed that he modeled the game which he called Sphairistiké (Greek for “playing at ball”) after an ancient Greek game, many authorities believe he adapted the principles of the popular English games of court tennis, squash racquets, and badminton for outdoor play. Early players preferred to call Wingfield’s game tennis-on-the-lawn, or lawn tennis.

By the late 19th century, the popularity of lawn tennis had overtaken croquet in England. For this reason, the All England Croquet Club embraced the sport and designated certain croquet lawns to be used for tennis. This natural supply of venues combined with the existing infrastructure resulted in the birth of the modern game in England.

In 1913, the existing National Tennis Associations joined forces to ensure the game was uniformly structured. An international conference was held between 12 nations in Paris and the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) was formed.

Tennis has a long Olympic history, but withdrew from the program after 1924. It did not return as a medal sport until 1988.

Professionals are now welcome to compete, and the Olympic competition includes men’s and women’s singles and men’s and women’s doubles.

And that’s game, set, and match, for now.

See you in a few, for our next instalment.

Till then.