Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / World / China-US

Ping-pong 'diplomats' enthused for Games

By LINDA DENG in Seattle | | Updated: 2021-11-23 12:55
Share - WeChat
Players from both sides participate in a China-US Ping-Pong friendly match during a special event in Shanghai, China, April 10, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Connie Sweeris, a famous "ping-pong diplomat" who has personally witnessed the power of sport said she is hopeful about the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.

"It's just a great opportunity to gather the world together. … We're seeing as countries that we do want to come out of this pandemic. And we do want to get together and compete again," Sweeris said.

The USA Table Tennis (USATT) Hall of Famer was a member of the pioneering 1971 team that made the historic trip to China.

"When it's only every four years, for some of the athletes that are getting towards the end of their career and wanted to make the Olympics, they maybe cannot have another chance to make an Olympic team or make the Olympics," said Dell Sweeris, Connie's husband, doubles partner and also a USATT Hall of Famer.

Five decades since the birth of  Ping-Pong Diplomacy between the US and China, the  athletic couple firmly believe that sport can foster friendship between nations and peoples.

"When you compete against each other … from countries all over the world, you begin to break barriers down, and you begin to understand their culture, and you have exchanges with them," she said.

"And it just brings about understanding between individuals, which then can seep into the rest of the culture. Especially for me, that became true in 1971, when I was on the US team in Nagoya, Japan, representing the US at the world Table Tennis Championships. And the last day of that competition, China had extended an invitation to our US team to come in and play friendship matches," Connie Sweeris said.

"And as we did that, we realized that we were the first Americans that were going to be led into China since 1949, which was 22 years of a broken relationship between the United States and China. And when we got into China, the slogan when we played our matches was 'Friendship first, competition second', and it broke open a door between our two countries to establish a relationship or diplomatic ties, and to begin talks with each other," she said. "So to me, these exchanges can bring about the release of political tensions if there is (some) between countries".

Judy Hoarfrost, the youngest player on a nine-member US table tennis team that arrived in Beijing in 1971, said Ping-Pong Diplomacy has given her a unique perspective on how a sport can help bring people together. The sporting endeavor  helped open up exchanges between the two countries, culminating in US President Richard Nixon's trip to China in 1972.

"The USA and China have many, many ties, business ties and personal ties, so many ways that we are interrelated now that we were not in 1971," she said. "Ping-Pong Diplomacy was the thing that just ignited it and got it started. I do think that sports, and other cultural exchanges, plays a huge part in bringing people together, nations together.

"When we as athletes create a connection, it grows, and it grows among our family, our city, our country, and it puts pressure on our representatives, our politicians, who see that the time is right to come together politically as well," Hoarfrost said.

Hoarfrost said she loves the slogan for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics:

"Together for a shared future".

"Everything that we do on this side of the globe affects that side of the globe. For example, the pandemic; we can't just vaccinate one country, because all the other countries are affected by each other," she said.

"We have to work together to have our common health goals and also our common environmental goals. And I think that we should all give some thought to that," Hoarfrost told China Daily.

"By doing these exchanges, and what this slogan means, is we can do things in the world together better than separate. And it will create more of a peaceful world if we have this understanding and togetherness," Connie Sweeris said.

The Sweerises' son Todd is a former two-time table tennis Olympian. He told his parents about his dream of being in the Olympics when he was 8. When he  represented the US and competed in the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta, his parents were thrilled.

"The highest thing that you can attain in your sport is becoming an Olympic athlete," Connie Sweeris said.

"And that is just an amazing event, doesn't matter whether it's in the United States or China or any of these states," her husband added.

"I say, go have a good time. You know, meet new friends. You solidify your ties with old friends and your teammates. Do participate, do your best, have fun, try hard, and most of all, be safe," Hoarfrost said she would tell today's Olympic athletes.

Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349