Mayor's Office Press Release

City of Houston Hosts Historic 2021 World Table Tennis Championships
United States and China will commemorate 50th anniversary of the Ping Pong Diplomacy

November 22, 2021 -- For the first time in history, the United States is hosting the World Table Tennis Championship. This year's tournament in Houston coincides with the 50th anniversary of the historic first meeting between the Chinese and American teams.

Fifty years ago, the USA Table Tennis Team arrived in China for a friendly Table Tennis exchange in 1971. "Ping Pong Diplomacy" brought the USA and China to the table, thus establishing diplomatic relations. The slogan for the event was the Chinese athletic slogan "Friendship First, Competition Second" and eased diplomatic tensions enough to allow President Richard M. Nixon to travel to Beijing in 1972.

On Sunday night, Mayor Sylvester Turner welcomed athletes, dignitaries, and guests to the Ping Pong Diplomacy Dignitary Dinner hosted by the Houston Harris County Sports Authority. Special Guests included President Nixon's grandson, Christopher Nixon Cox, and Neil Bush, son of President H.W. Bush.

"Houston is honored to be the host city for the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships and commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "As the nation's most diverse and welcoming city, Houston has a history of successfully hosting major events and promoting peace and friendship through sport."

Table Tennis Press Conference Photo 1

Similar to the exchange of gifts 50-years ago, Mayor Turner exchanged gifts with the Chinese table tennis association Liu Guoliang, considered the greatest ping pong player and coach of all time.

While presenting Liu Guoliang with a key to the city, Mayor Turner uttered the phrase made famous 50-years ago, "Friendship, First, Competition Second."

Mr. Guoliang presented the mayor with an oversized ping pong paddle signed by members of the Chinese team.

Mayor Turner and all attendees also participated in a new tradition, "turning of the scarf," in which they flipped souvenir scarves from one side with the words "peace" to reveal the words "friendship and trust."

The International Table Tennis Federation's 2021 World Table Tennis Championships will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center November 23-29, 2021.

The games are open to spectators, and the event will follow all covid safety protocols. For more information, go to or

"I encourage all Houstonians to support the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships. This is an exciting time for the athletes and for our city," said Mayor Turner.

Table Tennis Press Conference Photo 2

Table Tennis Press Conference Photo 3