Table tennis was developed in the late 19th century, though its origins are not well documented. Several different sources for its invention are credited, but the modern game is said to have started with the introduction of the celluloid ball circa 1891. This development can be attributed to the Englishman, James Gibb, a world-record holding distance runner, who discovered the celluloid ball during a visit to America. This ensured the success of the game as a domestic pastime, initially known as ping pong, from which a competitive game emerged.
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 International Olympic Committee (IOC) then usually required of new sports.
Men and women compete in four Olympic events, singles and teams for men and women. Since the late 1950s, the Chinese have been by far the dominant factor in table tennis, and have won 28 of the 32 Olympic table tennis titles, and 53 medals in all, with the remaining ones going to South Korea (3) and Sweden (1). Three Chinese players have won four titles, Wang Nan, Deng Yaping, and Zhang Yining, with only Wang Nan and Wang Hao winning five medals.
The Chinese dominance has become a problem for the sport, with many of the non-Chinese competitors having been born in China and having changed allegiance for various reasons. The replacement of the doubles events by the team was intended to give other nations an opportunity to compete for the medals, which has had only marginal success.
The governing body of the sport is the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), which was formed in 1926, with nine founding members: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, India, Sweden, and Wales. As of 2020 the ITTF has 226 member associations.