Ping Pong Diplomacy is a term that was coined in 1971 when 6 teams participating at the 1971 World Championships in Japan were invited to visit China as it opened its doors to the World for the first time in many years after the Cultural Revolution.
The table tennis teams that made history by being the first foreigners to visit China, and opened the possibility for Richard Nixon to recognize China, are the USA, Canada, Colombia, Nigeria, England and Australia.
Of course, politically the main focus was on the USA team due to the tensions at the time between the USA and China. The USA table tennis team appeared on the cover of TIMES Magazine posing on the Great Wall of China. This was unimaginable at the time, but resulted in a normalisation, to some extent, of the relations between China and the west, and in particular the USA.
Canada was also present and participated in what today is known as Ping Pong Diplomacy. The Canadian team taking part in the visit to China was:
Women: Violetta Nesukaitis, Helen Simerl (Sabaliauskas) and Joyce Hecht
Men: Derek Wall, Larry Lee and Errol Caetano
Official: Margaret Walden
Accompanying person: Norman Hecht.
From left to right: Violetta, Helen, Larry, Leah Neuberger (USA), Derek, Marg, Norman Hecht (Joyce’s husband) and Errol. Kneeling down in Joyce Hecht.
Canadians in the back row from left to right: Norman, Errol, Violetta, Larry and Helen.
Canadians in the front row from left to right: Marg, Derek and Joyce. To the extreme right is Leah (USA).