Table tennis originated in the late 19th century with cork or rubber balls. First popular in England, it spread to several European countries and to the United States in the early 20th cent. The International Table Tennis Federation was founded (1926) to standardize the rules and equipment. The U.S. Table Tennis Association was founded in 1933.

Primarily a recreational sport in the United States, table tennis is a major competitive sport in Asia and parts of Europe. In 1971 the sport achieved a great measure of publicity when, while touring Japan, a U.S. table tennis team was invited to play in China, thereby initiating the first officially sanctioned Sino-American cultural exchange in almost twenty years. Table tennis took its place on the Olympic program in 1988.

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