Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Date Started: September 23, 1988
Date Finished: October 1, 1988
Participants: 129 (81 men and 48 women) from 41 countries
Youngest Participant: Patricia Offel (16 years, 280 days)
Oldest Participant: Hae-Ja Kim de Rimasa (39 years, 17 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 3 athletes with 2 medals
Most Medals (Country): China (5 medals)
Table tennis was developed in the late 19th century, though its origins are not well documented. It is usually considered to be of English origin, with descriptions of “miniature” tennis being played indoors in the 1880s and 1890s. Ivor Montagu (1904-1984), a Cambridge University student, codified the rules of the game in 1922. In January 1926, five nations – Austria, England, Germany, Hungary, and Sweden – met to form the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). World championships were begun in the same year. The popular form of the sport is often called ping pong, but the ITTF prefers table tennis or similar variants in other languages.
The sport is widely practiced throughout the world. However, it made an unusual entry into the Olympic program. Table tennis made its Olympic début as a full medal sport in 1988 at Seoul. It was never contested at the Olympics as a demonstration sport, which the IOC formerly required of new sports. Since the late 1950s, the Chinese have been by far the dominant country in table tennis. There were four table tennis events on the Olympics program from 1988-2004 – singles and doubles for men and women. In 2008, the doubles’ competitions were replaced by team events. Mixed doubles is not held at the Olympics, but it has been an event at the World Championships since 1927.
The format for singles in 1988 consisted of eight round-robin pools of eight players each, with the top two in each pool advancing to a single-elimination tournament of 16 players. In doubles, there were four round-robin pools of eight teams, with the top two teams advancing to a single-elimination tournament of eight teams.