International table tennis is a whole different ball game compared to ping pong with friends. The speed of the rallies, the huge distance the players stand behind the table and the immense spin and swerve they generate on the ball makes table tennis a surprisingly exciting spectator sport.
Already very popular in China, table tennis gained a host of new followers during the recent Rio Olympics thanks to a number of epic duels. The latest big tournament is the European Championship which takes place in the Hungarian capital Budapest from October 18-23.
China came away with all the gold medals at Rio but Germany grabbed silver in the women’s team event and bronze among the men to show that Europe still boasts some top table tennis talent.
A trip to the European Championship in Budapest will give Chinese visitors a chance to eye up the European opposition at close quarters ahead of future international competition. “Our goal with this European Championship is to support the development of European table tennis and bring this wonderful sport closer to the spectators all over Europe and involve new spectators as well, to grow the table tennis community,” Roland Nátrán, President of the Hungarian Table Tennis Association, said in a statement.
Europe may still be quite a way behind Asia in table tennis excellence, but there is another big reason to visit the event. Budapest is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, straddling the large Danube river and full of elegant buildings and famous spas. It also offers an intriguing glimpse into the sometimes wacky but delicious world of Hungarian cuisine.
Ever fancied trying cold cherry soup? Budapest is the place. “I adore Budapest. The parliament by the river has got to be one of the most impressive buildings on earth. Some of the hotels are also top notch and the food is surprisingly very different from other European cuisines. But so tasty. I go once a year,” said English tourist Paul Marsden, who has been travelling to Hungary for 15 years.
The table tennis takes place at the futuristic Tüskecsarnok arena which was only completed in 2014. Its big advantage is that the roofing has been designed to mean that artificial light is completely unnecessary during the day – perfect for table tennis. In all, the arena seats 4,000 spectators.
Hungary last hosted the Euros in 1982 but has already been chosen to hold the 2019 world championships and is eager to make a good impression after years away from the international spotlight.
The country used to be strong in table tennis and wants to start the fight back at home with the likes of Ádám Pattantyús looking for a good showing in the men’s competition. But there is big competition from powerhouse Germany, with one table tennis player in particular recently hitting the headlines. Petrissa Solja was part of the women’s team and women’s doubles sides which won the European title in 2013. But she made a bigger name for herself before the Rio Olympics when she appeared as a model.
Table tennis has a glamorous side too and there are few better places than beautiful Budapest to enjoy the fast growing sport.
European Table Tennis Championships, October 18-23, Budapest, Hungary http://www.ettc2016.com/en/
Hevesy György út, 1117 Budapest, Hungary, +36 1 460-6840, email@example.com
Danubius Hotel Gellért, Szent Gellért tér 1., 1111 Budapest, Hungary, +36-1-889-5500, firstname.lastname@example.org One of the most famous hotels in the city with a marvelous riverside location, the four star offers a world renowned spa as well as large comfortable rooms.
Monk’s Bistrot: Hidden away in a historic venue, this excellent restaurant offers contemporary Hungarian and international cuisine. Piarista Koz 1, 1052 Budapest, email@example.com, http://english.monks.hu/