Ping Heathrow

Day 1:  It was Ibrahim’s ninth birthday and what a birthday he was having. His flight to Saudi Arabia had been delayed for a whopping 12 hours but he was not to be defeated. When we located the table at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 he was already in full flow. By the time we left three hours later, he was still playing and very much in control. That wasn’t so surprising given that he was already fluent in three languages; English, French and Arabic.  During those three hours we taught him some basic shots and he proved to be a quick learner. By the time we left him, feet, arms and brain were all moving more or less in coordination. But more than that, he proved to be a natural born organiser. Mimicking what he had seen us do with all the other passing participants, he took over the role as if it were the most natural thing in the world. His mother and sister were fairly phlegmatic about his performance as if they expected nothing less. I wish his flight could be delayed for a whole month because I’m certain it would have a massive impact at the Ping Heathrow table.


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Ping London-St Pancras Ping

The grand opening of Ping London took place in the equally grand location of the newly refurbished St Pancras station and what a great occasion it was. Jointly organised by Sport England, Sing London, the participatory arts organisation, and the often staid English Table Tennis Association, it was anything but a staid affair. All the great and the beautiful of the table tennis world were there including at least two former England champions. They did their  usual showpiece performances which the non-ping part of the audience lapped up, but the real buzz of the evening was taking place away from the show courts, the VIP’s and the cameras. The essence of Sing London is not about table tennis superstars but rather the ordinary punter on the street that might just fancy a casual game of ping on the way home from work. It was this real and tangible magical essence that was on display at St Pancras yesterday.

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Ping London: The revolution begins.


In 1917, Lenin’s Bolsheviks captured the Post Office, the railway station, the armaments depot, the Winter Palace and other strategic points. In no time at all St Petersburg was in the hands of the Reds with barely a drop of blood being spilt.


 Ninety-three years later, Ping London is using a similar strategy. Key London institutions are, for four weeks over this summer, falling to the power of ping and an impatient army of table tennis enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. St Pancras Station, the O2 arena, Tate Modern, Westfield's, the British Library (once home to Karl Marx), Canary Wharf, Covent Garden and Heathrow Airport have all succumbed to the ping army. In fact 100 table tennis tables are being strategically placed across the capital for a whole month of people’s ping and I am reliably informed that other British cities are soon to follow.

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Old School Tie, David Conn, Guardian, 8/07/09

A useful piece by David Conn in the Guardian shows how English cricket is still rooted in the public school mentality of the past two centuries. Seven of the current English Ashes squad can boast ‘independent school status’ and the attempts of the ECB to widen the appeal of cricket are far from certain to succeed.  Conn cites Graham Able, a trustee of the cricket Foundation, who as Master of Dulwich College in South London, can boast eight full grass cricket fields which is two more than  exist for the whole borough of Southwark where only one state school can offer a grass cricket field for its students. This pattern is repeated across the country where under successive Tory and Labour Governments, schools have been allowed to sell off their playing fields in order to finance the small matter of their educational activities. Conn elaborates, ‘In 2009, cricket, the sport with deep upper class traditions which gave us separate changing rooms for amateur ‘gentlemen’ and professional ‘players’, still illustrates Britain’s monumental class divide, between the lavish fields owned by public schools and the comparative threadbare landscape in which 93% of people are educated.’


The ECB does have a grassroots cricket programme, ‘Chance To Shine’ which is amply funded by the ECB’s controversial decision to take cricket off the terrestrial stations and into the golden hands of Sky Sports. And according to Pete Ackerley, the ECB’s head of development, the numbers of youngsters playing cricket is substantially up. Ackerley argues, ‘We feel the programme is bearing fruit. It doesn’t directly depend on how the England Team performs - the biggest rise in participation we had was in 2007 when England were whitewashed. We’ve registered a 27% increase.’ The question is, with cricket now invisible to terrestrial viewers, can cricket break through the centuries of class elitism and root itself in mainstream Britain or will it remain essentially the preserve of the Public School privileged few? Of course cricket is not alone in this respect. A quick tour around London’s tennis clubs and it immediately becomes apparent that they are anything but representative of London’s ethnic and class demography. Until that changes England’s respective standing in these sports will remain less than flattering.


End JPK 8/07/09 

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 October 2012 12:25 )

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