Did you know that when the game of Table Tennis was first invented, in the late 1800's it was called Whiff Whaff? While its exact origins are not known, it is believed that the first version of the game was played by British soldiers who were stationed in India and South Africa .
Using cigar box lids as bats and corks from vine bottles as the ball, the soldiers tried to mimic outdoor tennis, using stacks of books as nets. When they returned to England, they improvised a little by creating rackets made from parchment stretched over a frame.
The game soon became a big hit, especially as an after-dinner entertainment for guests. The game was named Whiff-Whaff or Ping Pong because of the sound made by the cork ball, when hit by the parchment racket.
John Jacques, a maker of sports equipment, watched the growing popularity of the sport and decided to manufacture his own version of it. Introduced in 1891, it was called 'Gossima' and included a kit with two drum-type paddles, a wrapped cork ball and a net. It became so popular that in 1901, John changed its name to Ping Pong and sold rights to sell it in the USA to game board manufacturer, Parker Brothers.
Around the same time, British Whiff-Whaff enthusiast, James Gibb discovered some novelty plastic balls that he knew would be perfect for the game. This replaced the wrapped cork ball, but the bats remained pretty much the same until 1951, when another British fan E.C. Goode made some changes to the design, which included adding a rubber sheet to the wooden blade. This allowed the players to add a spin and extra speed, to the ball.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the game continued to grow in leaps and bounds. To make the game more 'respectable', officials changed its name from Whiff-Whaff and Ping Pong, to Table Tennis. An International Table Tennis Federation was established in 1926 to organize and manage global competitions. However, despite its popularity throughout the world, Table Tennis did not become an Olympic Sport until 1988.
Today there are over 400 million people who play the game worldwide - Of this 100 million are in China , where the game is a national passion. In fact, though the game was invented in Britain, it is the Chinese that dominate today. In the last 49 years, China has won 100 individual or team titles, including 16 of the 20 Olympic gold medals that have been available since the game was added 20 years ago.
As one would expect, Table Tennis is no longer an after-dinner entertainment game - it has evolved into an extremely intense sport, which requires skill and endurance. Quite an amazing evolution for a sport that started with a name like Whiff-Whaff!