Ping London

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Four weeks of free table tennis hits the capital as Ping London is launched to mark the countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games

 By Martin Hughes
 Owner and Editor

Ping London logo

In order to promote the sport of table tennis, and to mark the two year countdown to the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, a hundred table tennis tables appeared across London's landmarks, squares, shopping centres, offices and train stations on 24 July 2010.

The London 2012 inspired project, Ping! was officially launched at St Pancras International Train Station.

Following an "extreme ping pong" display by free-running experts to open the event, free table tennis will be available to play at a number of famous London destinations including Soho Square, Westfield Shopping Centre, Tate Britain, the British Library and Heathrow's Terminal 3 until August 22.

The tables all feature a "Stop and Play" sign and any individual is allowed to participate on any table as long as they return the racket and balls to the side of the table after they have finished playing.

The rackets are marked with a "Please put me back" slogan while volunteer "table custodians" replace missing stock daily.


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Sport England's Innovation Fund

The initiative, which is supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England's Innovation Fund, comes two years after Mayor of London Boris Johnson famously said at the Beijing 2008 Olympics that "Ping-Pong is coming home!"

Ping! has been created by Sing London, a participatory arts organisation who produced the 2009 Street Pianos Project (where 100 pianos were available for the public to use), and is delivered in partnership with the English Table Tennis Association (ETTA - now known as Table Tennis England) and Yahoo.

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As well as free-play, each table tennis table venue features a varied programme of master-classes, competitions and free-to-join activities such as a Literary Ping Pong Quiz at the British Library on 30 July 2010.

Ping! will appear at four more major UK cities over the next two years before returning to London for 2012 and the project aims to get a million more people playing more sport by the time the 2012 Olympic Games kick off.

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Sport England's chief executive Jennie Price, said:

"Sport England's job is to make sure everyone has the chance to play a sport that interests them, and sometimes that means taking the sport to the people, rather than the people to the sport.

Table tennis has a very wide appeal, and I hope thousands of people will take advantage of these outdoor tables and will enjoy playing."


Richard Yule, ETTA's chief executive, added:

"It's fantastic for table tennis to be at the forefront of further cutting edge interventions to increase sustainable mass participation.

We recognize there is a growing and significant demand for informal opportunities to play table tennis outside of our traditional club and league structure.

Ping! and the outdoor table initiatives will allow us to embrace this growing market and also re-establish table tennis in the public's imagination as a fun, sociable and desirable sport to play."

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Sing London

Sing London has a successful record of engaging the public in participatory events.

Last year over 250,000 people played on, or sung around, pianos it placed on the streets of London.

Colette Hiller, the creative director of Sing London, is confident that Londoners will take good care of the table tennis equipment.

She said:

"When we installed London's Street Pianos, the public took good care of them.

We think Ping! will evoke a similar sense of public spirit and good will.

Our projects are all about generating public spirit.

Our aim is to make participation feel irresistible.

By taking part in something, you feel a part of it, and ping pong is something which everyone likes to play."

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The Future

Sport England is investing in groundbreaking projects which will help to deliver a lasting grassroots sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

50 permanent outdoor tables and 50 hard-wearing temporary tables will be erected across London.

At the end of the Ping London project, the temporary tables will be donated to schools, youth centres and community centres, whilst the ETTA (now known as Table Tennis England) and the charity "Greenhouse" will be running an ongoing outreach programme to promote continued participation.


Olympic Rings

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For more information about table tennis at the Olympic Games, take a look at my other articles...

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