Rich History of Ping Pong Diplomacy Celebrated at the Richard Nixon Library

By Matt Hetherington | Aug. 23, 2019, 5:34 p.m. (ET)


Yesterday evening, the pinnacle diplomacy event of the China team visit to the United States came to fruition at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA.

Taking a trip down memory lane, three members of the original 1971 Ping Pong Diplomacy team found themselves on a bus with the 54-member Chinese National delegation and the US team players.

For Judy Hoarfrost (nee. Bochenski), Connie Sweeris and George Braithwaite, it was reminiscent of the early 70s and the table tennis events which changed the course of relations between the United States and China.

The evening saw the teams touring the Nixon Library museum and joining together in a special banquet to celebrate the friendship between USA and China.

The evening's proceedings were organized by the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in Los Angeles, USATT, CTTA and the Richard Nixon Foundation with the generous support of presenting sponsor Yanghe and co-sponsors the All American Chinese Association and Global Creative Cities Coalition.

Esteemed guests from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the IOC, USA Table Tennis, Chinese Table Tennis Association, LA Sport and many other supporters were in attendance.

Ahead of the banquet, players from each team signed rackets and engaged in a few short exhibition games.

Three original members of the Ping Pong Diplomacy team took on the best in the world. First USA's Connie Sweeris took on the task of Olympic Champion Ding Ning, managing to survive the encounter with style. Judy Hoarfrost had the opportunity to hit with World Champion Liu Shiwen, while George Braithwaite, now 85 but still with plenty of coordination and skill at his disposal, tested his skill against current World Number 1, Xu Xin.

For Hoarfrost, who was just 15 when she was part of the 1971 team to visit China, it was a special experience.

“Forty-eight years after our 1971 Ping Pong Diplomacy trip to China, it is awesome to see the legacy and spirit of Ping Pong Diplomacy continue to a new generation. As table tennis players, let 's all of us contribute to peace and understanding around the world. Many thanks to the Chinese players and Association for generously sharing your expertise with our USA players” - Judy Hoarfrost, original 1971 Ping Pong Diplomacy Team.

Connie Sweeris, who attended with husband Dell, was also happy to see the two teams together again.

“It was a really nice experience to be able to hit a few balls with Ding Ning, and very reminiscent of the Chinese team visiting the United States in 1972. We are grateful to be a part of the event and to see the legacy of Ping Pong Diplomacy further strengthened,” says Sweeris.

Speeches were given led by USATT CEO Virginia Sung, who reflected on the impact of Ping Pong Diplomacy on her life – and the engrained quote of “friendship first, competition second.”

Sung marked the event as a new chapter in the joint efforts of the two teams to promote table tennis on the world stage, and continue the powerful legacy of Ping Pong Diplomacy.

CTTA President Liu Guoliang mentioned the famous metaphor of a small white ball spinning the whole globe, a quote which reflects just how important table tennis was in those years in changing the course of history between the great nations of China and the United States.

Liu said they were “very happy to come to a meaningful location like the Nixon Library. 48 years ago table tennis brought China and the United States together. Already this year the US and China joined successfully to win the rights to host the 2021 and 2022 World Table Tennis Championships and now by the kind invitation of USATT and the USOPC, this successful second cooperation here in Los Angeles.”

Liu expressed his hope that events like these will help table tennis become more popular in the United States and around the world and extended his gratitude for the invitation to be here in the United States for this great opportunity to learn about US sports culture and professionalism and joint training with the US team.

Indeed it will be a special night to remember as another pinpoint on the timeline as the evening became a part of a rich history of table tennis and Ping Pong Diplomacy's deep legacy.

See below: US original Ping Pong Diplomacy team 1971 members taking on China and the USATT Flickr Gallery from the event.

 

2019 Nixon Library Ping Pong Diplomacy Event