Member of the Chinese Table Tennis Team
In April 1972, the National Committee made history by bringing over the Chinese Table Tennis Team in round two of what became widely known as Ping Pong Diplomacy. Following two historic trips made in the other direction – the U.S. Table Tennis team’s 1971 trip to China and President Nixon’s February 1972 trip to China – this was the first U.S. visit of a delegation from the People’s Republic of China.
The Chinese delegation, led by Zhuang Zedong, China’s most famous table tennis player of his day, consisted of 13 players, 8 newsmen and photographers (including a TV documentary team and a feature film crew), 4 interpreters and 7 senior officials – testimony to the importance the Chinese attached to the visit. This was certainly matched by the U.S. side, as evidenced by a planeload of journalists who covered the event, sell-out crowds at six large arenas and a reception on the White House lawn by President Nixon. The U.S. Table Tennis Association played host for the visit, with the National Committee responsible for its management and fundraising.
The Chinese team arrived in Detroit from Canada by chartered plane on April 12, and left San Francisco for Mexico on April 30, with Ann Arbor, Williamsburg, Washington, New York, Memphis, and Los Angeles and the Bay area (including Palo Alto and Napa Valley) in between. They played six matches with U.S. teams and gave several exhibitions, all of which were enthusiastically received. Along with the table tennis, the visitors also had opportunities to see, talk to, and engage with diverse sectors of America.
The success of the Chinese Table Tennis Team’s visit opened the doors to further sports – not to mention cultural and educational – exchange. In the athletic arena alone, the National Committee launched a number of exchanges throughout the remainder of the decade, eventually sending and receiving delegations representing many major sports – including swimming and diving, basketball, gymnastics, track and field, volleyball, tennis, and soccer.