Mayor Ed Lee picks up ping-pong paddle in name of goodwill 

Mayor Ed Lee celebrated the 40th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy on July 5 at City Hall, declaring it Ping Pong Diplomacy Day.

Lee was joined by the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee (BASOC), the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and Chinese Consul General Zhansheng Gao in welcoming a Chinese delegation consisting of table tennis Olympians, including members of the original team that played in the 1971 matches.

After Lee presented a certificate of honor to each of member of the delegation, he picked up a racket and played a few rounds.

A citywide ping-pong tournament will be held in Chinatown on Sept. 18, Lee said. An alley will be blocked off with 10 tables.

“Through the sport of table tennis, the whole world changed,” Lee said. “Ping Pong Diplomacy provided a way to open the doors of the world’s largest country to the world’s most powerful nation. We are delighted and honored to welcome the delegation from China to San Francisco to celebrate our shared prosperity and success in the world economy.”

The BASOC partnered with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Consulate General of China and organized several events over the next few days to celebrate the anniversary. The delegation held a Sports and Diplomacy Forum on Tuesday afternoon. Exhibition matches will be held at Stanford University on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“The promotion of peace and goodwill through sports is a core value of BASOC, and of course the Olympic Movement,” said Anne Warner Cribbs, president and CEO of BASOC. “Ping Pong Diplomacy is perhaps the greatest demonstration of the power of this belief in the last half-century, and it must be commemorated accordingly.”

“I hadn’t picked up a ping-pong paddle until just now,” Lee said. “It was exciting playing with the new generation as well as the people that played in 1971. For me, there is such a history behind this because in 1971 I was studying the history of China. I’m proud of the city and its role.”

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Margaret Baum

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