Luke Blackall: Staying in with my new friends Gabby Logan, Clare Balding and Ian Thorpe

Man About Town: Fancy a game of ping pong between courses?
  • @lukeblackall

I've been trying my very best not to go out partying this week. It's not that I've lost the desire, and the invitations are yet to evaporate in the annual summer party drought. It's just that I've been hit with a bad case of Olympic fever.

The only cure for this debilitating condition has been to stay in each evening with my new friends Gabby Logan, Clare Balding and Ian Thorpe as they present and analyse the coverage from London 2012.

I have also been able to ease my suffering by actually going to a couple of Olympics events, so I'm extra grateful that I got myself up at 6am sometime last year to buy the tickets. Once there, I've found both the holiday-camp-enthusiasm of the volunteers and an unusual strain of British bonhomie, restorative.

I did manage to drag myself away from my sickbed on at least one evening, however, and that was the sportiest excuse for a party I could find: the launch of a new bar, Ping.

Ping is a cool and lively restaurant and basement bar in London's Earls Court, with a twist (or should that be spin?): it's full of table tennis tables. So guests can play in between ordering a beer and pizza.

Ping-pong nights out have been a hipster fashion in the US for a while now. The Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon, is part-owner of the bar SPiN, a mini chain of trendy table tennis bars in the US and Canada and also its spin-off (excuse the pun) social media site, which allows paddle-lovers around the world to challenge each other to matches.

When I told people at work that I was going, they all wanted to come. It's a secret passion, only fuelled every four years by the sight of the lightening-paced paddle stars at the Olympics. It has also become a sport that causes everyone to ignore the British self-deprecation guidelines. Everyone who plays always likes to drop into the conversation just how good they are – "could have played seriously..." etc.

The people playing at Ping on the night I went, however, couldn't have been that good, as periodically stray balls would fly overhead while you were trying to have a drink. Still, give it a few years and it might help develop our next generation of Olympians, if they can just avoid the pizza and beer coming from the kitchen, that is.

In fact, I'll be popping back there soon for the latter. Once my Olympic fever has worn off, of course.