By Tom Degun
July 22 - A hundred ping-pong tables will appear across London’s landmarks, squares, shopping centres, offices and train stations this Saturday (July 24) as the London 2012 inspired project Ping! was launched this evening at St Pancras International Train Station with an "extreme ping pong" display by free-running experts.
Following the the launch, free table tennis will be available to play at a number of famous London destinations including Soho Square, Westfield Shopping Centre, Tate Britain, the British Library and Heathrow’s Terminal 3 until August 22.
The tables all feature a "Stop and Play" sign while any individual is allowed to participate on any table as long as they return the bat and balls to the side of the table after they have finished playing.
The bats are marked with a "Please put me back" slogan while volunteer "table custodians" replace missing stock daily.
The initiative, which is supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England’s Innovation Fund, comes two years after Mayor of London Boris Johnson famously said at the Beijing 2008 Olympics that "Ping-Pong is coming home!"
Ping! has been created by Sing London, the participatory arts organisation that produced last year’s Street Pianos Project, and is delivered in partnership with the English Table Tennis Association (ETTA) and Yahoo.
As well as free-play, each ping-pong table venue features a varied programme of master-classes, competitions and free to join activities such as a Literary Ping Pong Quiz at the British Library on July 30.
Ping! will appear at four more major UK cities over the next two years before returning to London for 2012 and the project aims to get a million more people playing more sport by the time the Games kick off.
Sport England’s chief executive Jennie Price, said: "Table tennis has wide appeal, and I hope thousands of people will take advantage of these outdoor tables and will enjoy playing."
Richard Yule, ETTA’s chief executive, added: "It is fantastic for table tennis to be at the forefront of further cutting edge interventions to increase sustainable mass participation."
Colette Hiller, the creative director of Sing London, is confident that Londoners will take good care of the ping-pong equipment.
She said: "When we installed London’s Street Pianos, the public took good care of them.
"We think Ping! will evoke a similar sense of public spirit and good will."
Table tennis is actually the second most popular participation sport in the world behind football with 300 million players around the globe and London has a particularly strong affiliation with the sport.
The city hosted the first official World Championship in 1927 although it was not until the Seoul 1988 Games that table tennis became an Olympic sport.
For a full programme of events click here.
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