San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee joined a delegation of Chinese table tennis Olympians and other officials at City Hall today to celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Ping Pong Diplomacy.”
The exchange of table tennis players between the U.S. and China starting in 1971 led to President Nixon’s trip to China the following year and the eventual reopening of relations between the two countries.
Gao Zhansheng, the consul general for China in San Francisco, said “the small ball moved the big ball” and paved the way for the new relationship between the two countries that “changed the world completely.”
Judy Hoarfrost, a member of the U.S. team that participated in the initial trip to China, said “table tennis has been a platform to promote peace” and “been about bringing people together to transcend … barriers.”
Lee, whose family is from China, said he was “proud to be a part of this historic connection” between the two countries, and even participated along with Zhansheng and some current and former Olympians in a few rallies at a table set up in City Hall.
“It was exciting playing with the new generation as well as the people that played in 1971,” he said, adding that he “started working up a pretty good sweat.”
The mayor also announced that the city would hold a table tennis tournament in September as part of the Sunday Streets event being held in the Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods.
The Chinese delegation, which arrived in San Francisco on Monday, will travel to Palo Alto on Wednesday for exhibition matches at Stanford University.
Tickets for the Wednesday exhibition can be purchased at basoc.org.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News