In recent years, Japan and China have had a, shall we say, “strained” relationship, but the Japanese may have just pulled one over their rivals in the most unlikeliest of places – table tennis, currently China’s most watched sport.
China has won 24 of a possible 28 gold medals in Olympic ping pong history, adding another 15 silver and 8 bronze. Japan, in contrast, has won a solitary silver medal in seven attempts since the sport was first included in the Olympics in 1988.
But, in perhaps the most sneaky sporting move since Myanmar handpicked most of the sports for this year’s Southeast Asian Games, Japan has moved to level the playing field, by doing exactly that – literally, making sure that the playing field is level. Confused? Japanese table tennis equipment manufacturer San-Ei has just won what the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) described as the “most competitive” bidding process in recent memory to supply the tables for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Conspiracy theorists now have a little over three years to work out exactly how the Japanese can use this to their advantage – hidden potholes? secret magnetic forces? one-way hatches in the net? (Suggestions in the comments please).
The Japanese won’t have it all their own way, though: long-term ITTF partner Double Happiness – a Chinese company – will supply the balls.