The Chinese National Table Tennis Team on Wednesday joined forces with leading UAE players to launch the next stage of community programme Ping Pong Dubai, which will see tables installed in selected Dubai parks.
The tables will be free to use with the aim to encourage people from all walks of life to pick up a bat and discover that table tennis is a fun and social way to be more active.
The Dubai-sponsored Chinese National Table Tennis Team helped launch Ping Pong Dubai and is now supporting its latest stage, which got under way at Safa Park with a UAE-China exhibition match and coaching master class attended by local youngsters and table tennis enthusiasts.
“Table tennis is immensely popular in China and people come together in parks across the country to play every day. It is wonderful to see this happening in Dubai also,” said Jike Zhang, winner of the 2012 London Olympics gold medal, who is in the emirate to compete in the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals from January 9-12.
“Table tennis can be enjoyed by anyone – no matter their age, ability or fitness level – and having tables in public parks captures this spirit.”
Jike Zhang – who was at the event with teammates Long Ma, the world No 1 men’s player, Shiwen Liu, the world No 1 women’s player, and Xiao Xia Li, the 2012 London Olympics gold winner, as well as Olympic silver medalists Ning Ding and Wang Hao – is also delighted to see how much Ping Pong Dubai has engaged the community, and helped the game grow, since its May 2013 launch.
Dubai Sports World, the largest indoor summer sports event in the Middle East, hosted thousands of players – from novices to experts – on 12 free-to-use tables, while more than 400 players contested two open tournaments.
In addition, the Ping Pong Dubai Facebook page has almost 13,000 followers, while a number of other community events have been staged, with hundreds of school children and members of the public having had the opportunity to participate.
“It is always pleasing for us to see table tennis being developed in other countries and witnessing people sharing in China’s passion for the sport,” added Jike Zhang. “It is very exciting to see the impact Ping Pong Dubai is having.”
Also in attendance at Safa Park were the UAE’s Majd Albalooshi and Abdulla Almuheisni, who - in addition to getting a glimpse of the China players in action before they face them at Al Nasr Club this week – recognise the value in stimulating the game’s development at grassroots level.
“To meet the world’s best players and watch them play can have a huge influence on youngsters. Hopefully it will inspire them to practice more and become the best players they can be,” said Albalooshi.
Ping Pong Dubai is a non-profit venture between the UAE Table Tennis Association, Dubai Sports Council and Falcon and Associates, which facilitated the Chinese National Table Tennis Team sponsorship. The first stage of the programme will see tables introduced at Al Mamzar, Al Barsha, Al Wasl and Mushrif Parks, while tables will be rolled out at further parks in the coming months.
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