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August 29 2014

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With the Beijing Olympics over and reckoned a triumph, it seems like the right time to ask: What’s the deal with ping-pong? There’s Naked Ping-Pong, played not-nakedly out of a Tribeca loft; there are the nightly no-joke matches in Chinatown; there’s the string quartet that accompanies the skip of the ping-pong ball on Tuesday nights at Fat Cat in the West Village. The sudden popularity of the sport suggests that China’s cultural hegemony over the West has begun in earnest. Either that, or ping-pong is, you know, the new bocce. “It’s bigger than bocce,” says Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon, a confirmed ping-pong fanatic. “Ping-pong has some of the same appeal, because it’s a game you can play over drinks. It’s social.” According to Leon, his interest in table tennis was rejuvenated a few years ago on a trip to Berlin, at bar called Mr. Pong. “It’s like the Max Fish of Berlin, only with ping-pong tables. That piqued our interest—we wound up ordering a table for our office. And then, once we had our radar up, we started seeing ping-pong everywhere.” Leon and his Opening Ceremony co-founder Carol Lim have faced off in friendlies against fellow enthusiasts such as Rogan Gregory and Vogue editor Jane Herman, and a ping-pong tourney took center stage at the store’s 72-hour shop-a-thon earlier this month. Leon and Lim’s passion for the pong runs so deep, in fact, that for Spring ’09 they’re introducing a ping-pong sweater. Their friend Alexander Wang is getting into the act, too. Sort of. Wang is having his fashion week after-party at the New York Table Tennis Federation space downtown, and rest assured, partygoers will be working up a sweat. “We’re moving all the ping-pong tables out,” Wang says, “so there’s room to dance.”

Photo: Bert Hardy/Getty Images

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  1. Valerio says:

    I would rather dance then playing a ping pong game, It’s easier to do (and then I mean dancing) But I adore people who can compete each other in this very fast game. The total control of your muscles/body is in my view very important and never forget actually the control over your mind.

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