Obituary: Roy Evans

ROY EVANS was the Mr Table Tennis who helped bring two super powers together in what became known as "The Ping-Pong Diplomacy". It all began in 1971 when Evans, in his capacity as president of the International Table Tennis Federation, was invited to stop off in China on his way to Japan for the World Championships. He was summoned by the Chinese Premier Chou En-lai, who asked him to ban Vietnam from the event because at the time the two countries were sworn enemies.

Evans turned the request down flat on the basis that both countries were members of the ITTF and had to be dealt with equally. In a counter move he suggested that China invite top Western countries to visit them on their way back from Japan.

It was a significant step in thawing relations between China and the United States. The Chinese sent their request to America after first seeking agreement with the State Department and the visit followed.

A year later, in February 1972, President Nixon visited China. It was as a direct result of the Ping-Pong Diplomacy - though Evans hated the slang name for his sport.

Evans was also instrumental in getting table tennis into the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, after a 10-year battle for recognition. This earned him the award of the Olympic Order from the IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch .

The elder son of the Table Tennis Association of Wales's first treasurer, Morgan "Mog" Evans, Roy played for Wales between 1931 and 1933 and was honorary general secretary of the sport's governing body in Wales from 1933 to 1939.

From there he moved on to become honorary general secretary of the International Federation from 1951 to 1967, before holding down the office of ITTF president for the next 20 years. He was named honorary life president in 1987. He was appointed OBE in the 1972 Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Evans's wife, Nancy, was in her younger days seventh in the women's world table tennis rankings, in 1938. They met when the Welsh men and women players were brought together for practice in Cardiff before a match against England in 1929. Together they travelled the world; in a book published last year, Coloured Pins on a Map, Evans related that he had been to at least 50 countries to promoting table tennis.

In the Second World War he had served as a flight-lieutenant in Burma. After being demobbed he went straight to a table tennis match between Cardiff and Newport.

Roy Evans's working hours were spent with the steel firm GKN; he retired in 1972 as general sales manager of the Bolt and Nut Division at Darlaston.

Roy Evans, table tennis official: born Cardiff, 8 October 1909; married 1933 Nancy Jackson (one daughter deceased); OBE 1972; died Cardiff 18 May 1998.