Chinese Ping Pong legend Liu Guoliang has been a leading force behind the newly created China-U.S. mixed double teams, which premiered at the 2021 World Table Tennis Championship in Houston, Texas this week.
Liu, who has been elected as International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Vice Chairman, said the idea of having Chinese and American players join in a mix doubles match was first floated by CGTN America’s head Jiang Heping, on the premise that there is new progress in China-U.S. relations following the virtual summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month.
Liu said he wanted to send a message to the world from the table tennis arena that there should be progress on people-to-people relations between the two giants. There were just around 10 or 20 minutes before the official drawing, but the International Table Tennis Federation supported his idea, Liu said.
“Everyone should take pride from this action on this historic time and these two newly joined teams could be remembered in decades to come, like they remembered the Chinese and American players accidental exchange which paved the way to normalize China-U.S. relations in 1971 during the Cold War,” Liu told CGTN in the exclusive interview.
Liu said the Chinese table tennis delegation has received warm hospitality from United Airlines when they flew to Houston, Texas to play in the World Table Tennis Championship. He said that flight attendants made several announcements during the flight that there is a “legendary Ping Pong team from China” on board and provided all the Chinese players free wifi in the sky.
Liu, who is also China’s Table Tennis Association President, said the goal of commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong diplomacy is to draw on new opportunities for China-U.S. relations from the old story of an accidental exchange between a Chinese and an American player in 1971.
“NBA players are widely loved in China, and I hope the successful Ping Pong players from China can also be known more by Americans,” Liu said.
Liu told CGTN that part of his new agenda is to promote Ping Pong around the world.
Liu also said he will promote Ping Pong in the U.S. market by pushing to host more Ping Pong events in the U.S. “I have seen the passion from Americans on Ping Pong and I hope that more Americans and Chinese share sports and enthusiasm.”
Liu said he believes the biggest challenge the Chinese Ping Pong players are facing is not their global competitors but COVID-19. “We are trying our best to protect our players from the pandemic, no matter if it’s Tokyo Olympics or Houston World Table Tennis Championship,” Liu said.
“We don’t pay that much attention to lot drawing, but we keep an eye on the real performance in the match,” Liu said while commenting on the “disadvantaged results” for China in the drawing on World Table Tennis Championship.
“The pandemic is the biggest challenge in promoting Ping Pong outside China these days.” Liu said. Many events have been canceled or restricted due to safety concerns, says Liu, but he said he believes the pandemic will eventually be defeated.
Liu said he is committed to educating people around the world about Chinese Table Tennis and their players, growing from from its massive fanbase in China.
Over 220 million viewers watched Ping Pong in the Olympic Games on China Central Television, and over 100 trending topics emerged over just one Ping Pong champion, Ma Long.
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