Ping-pong diplomacy may help save the world

Kelner's View

Share
Related Topics

We have all heard of shuttle diplomacy, but yesterday's
newspapers brought an entirely new concept: ping-pong
diplomacy.

This is not what happens when envoys get around the table and bat ideas back and forth to each other, using varying types of spin.

No, this is an idea pioneered by a charity organisation called Peace and Sport, whose belief is that reconciliation between countries who have hitherto been enemies can be achieved on the sporting field – or in this case, on the table. Today in Qatar, a table-tennis tournament will bring some very unlikely doubles partners together: for instance, North and South Korea, and Russia and the United States.

Unfortunately, Iran has pulled out of the competition – anyone joining forces with it in a game of doubles would have been an interesting sight. Table tennis is, in many ways, the perfect sport to bring about peace and harmony: a non-contact game which, in my experience, is played with good manners and a genuine appreciation for a partner's, or opponent's, skill.

There is also something of a revival in table tennis these days. Numbers taking up the sport are growing every week, and, if my own experience is anything to go by, it is a godsend for middle-aged men who have spent their lives seeking every sensation possible, and now have nothing to look forward to apart from the slow march to a pension. For us, table tennis has made us feel young again.

It all started when a friend of mine, a man in the film business, asked whether I played table tennis. The answer I gave, the same as any man of a certain age would give, was that I played as a youngster. We had a few games, and that was it. I was hooked. It is a sport of such simplicity, beauty, cunning, intelligence and nerve.

It's also a sport that you don't need to set aside half a day to play (even if we'd like to). You don't need to spend loads of money on gear (although one of our mutual friends who was brought into the circle of obsession has now bought special shoes, carbon bats and even a robot that helps him practise!).

It can be played between the sexes. And, in its doubles form, it is about the most companionable game there is. Our ping-pong circle has grown to such an extent that any lunch, tea or dinner invitation we make or receive has to include at least a best-of-11 series.

Yes, I know it sounds rather sad, but we've all given up at least one vice along the way, so we can't be begrudged a little harmless fun, although I admit our infatuation might be reaching alarming proportions.

I actually found myself dreaming I was playing against Tony Blair the other night. I'd just heard him speak at an event, and he'd clearly made it through to my subconscious. I smashed him, I believe. So much for reconciliation!

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May