Table Tennis at the 1988 Summer Olympics

Dates 23 September – 1 October 1988
Medal Events 4

Table tennis was developed in the late 19th century, though its origins are not well documented. It is usually considered to be of English origin, with descriptions of “miniature” tennis being played indoors in the 1880s and 1890s. Ivor Montagu (1904-1984), a Cambridge University student, codified the rules of the game in 1922. In January 1926, five nations – Austria, England, Germany, Hungary, and Sweden – met to form the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). World championships were begun in the same year. The popular form of the sport is often called ping pong, but the ITTF prefers table tennis or similar variants in other languages.

The sport is widely practiced throughout the world. However, it made an unusual entry into the Olympic program. Table tennis made its Olympic début as a full medal sport in 1988 at Seoul. It was never contested at the Olympics as a demonstration sport, which the IOC formerly required of new sports. Since the late 1950s, the Chinese have been by far the dominant country in table tennis. There were four table tennis events on the Olympics program from 1988-2004 – singles and doubles for men and women. In 2008, the doubles’ competitions were replaced by team events. Mixed doubles is not held at the Olympics, but it has been an event at the World Championships since 1927.

The format for singles in 1988 consisted of eight round-robin pools of eight players each, with the top two in each pool advancing to a single-elimination tournament of 16 players. In doubles, there were four round-robin pools of eight teams, with the top two teams advancing to a single-elimination tournament of eight teams.


Event Status Date Participants NOCs
Singles, Men Olympic 23 September – 1 October 1988 64 35
Doubles, Men Olympic 23 – 30 September 1988 64 23
Singles, Women Olympic 23 September – 1 October 1988 48 28
Doubles, Women Olympic 23 – 30 September 1988 30 15
129 (81/48) 41 (35/28)


Event Gold Silver Bronze
Singles, Men Yu Nam-GyuKOR Kim Gi-TaekKOR Erik LindhSWE
Doubles, Men People's Republic of China 1CHN YugoslaviaYUG Republic of Korea 2KOR
Singles, Women Chen JingCHN Li HuifenCHN Jiao ZhiminCHN
Doubles, Women Republic of KoreaKOR People's Republic of ChinaCHN YugoslaviaYUG

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
People's Republic of China CHN 2 2 1 5
Republic of Korea KOR 2 1 1 4
Yugoslavia YUG 0 1 1 2
Sweden SWE 0 0 1 1