This feature summarises how table tennis contributes to the achievement of development goals.


Why is table tennis well-suited to developing people and communities?

Table tennis is a sport which requires quick reactions, strategic thinking and persistence. It is unique in that it is a sport that everyone can play. Requiring a minimum of equipment, it is easily adapted to any social setting.

Table Tennis provides opportunities that otherwise would not have existed, especially in countries which have suffered conflict. On all continents, Table Tennis has been used to rehabilitate, engage with youth in a constructive way and provide fitness, fun and a social outlet. Table Tennis is a particularly suitable sport to empower young women and girls given that it is an enjoyable sport, easy to learn and play and does not depend on physical strength.

Table Tennis is a sport which can be played from a young age, in teams or individually and which can transcend political, gender, religious, and cultural boundaries. With the role of a coach essential to ensure correct technique, Table Tennis is particularly adapted to being played in school halls and sheltered environments with a coach guiding and instructing his students.

The role of coach as “role model” and “leader” in this environment encourages constructive and open relationships within the community hence contributing to the achievement of development objectives such as empowerment of women, rehabilitation following trauma, confidence building, discipline, respect and fairplay.


To which groups is table tennis best suited?

Table Tennis is suited to all age groups due to the fact that it is easy to learn and does not require physical strength. It is particularly suited to those wishing to develop strategic thinking and quick reactions.


Which actors use table tennis in their projects and how?

Table tennis is used by numerous actors around the world to help achieve development goals. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is a leader in promoting table tennis as a tool to breaking down social barriers. The United Nations, local and international non-governmental and governmental development organisations are using Table Tennis for development and peace-building purposes.


International Table Tennis Federation  (ITTF)

The ITTF is the governing body of table tennis whose development motto is “every table is a table tennis table” making accessibility at the grassroots level achievable in all settings. The ITTF has always been a proactive leader in its promotion of sport as a vehicle for social change and is currently aiming to address each Millennium Development Goal with a table tennis project.

In 1999, ITTF initiated a pilot development project in Oceania which was expanded to all continents in 2002. Approximately 100 courses are conducted worldwide every year and equipment assistance provided to over 30 countries annually.

The ITTF was one of the first sports federations to recognise South Africa, East Timor and one of the first to conduct courses in post-war Afghanistan. It has also conducted courses and provided equipment in Iraq in 2007-2008. As far back as the 1970s, ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ was created between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, which set the stage for the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Today the motto ‘breaking down barriers with Table Tennis balls’ is used to guide the ITTF’s Development Programme, which spans initiatives in Egypt, Uganda, Peru, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Maldives, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Somalia, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, among others.