by Zhang Baoping
CHICAGO, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Players from China's table tennis delegation gorgeously debut at Chicago International Table Tennis Festival Thursday afternoon.
It is the first time the windy city has held the festival.
At famous Navy Pier by Lake Michigan, two Chinese Ping Pong champions Wang Liqin and Chen Qi, are practicing before show, while Chinese woman player Ding Ning is playing with a U.S. rival.
During the interval of warming up, Wang Liqin said to Xinhua: "This is the second time I have been to Chicago, the last time was ten years ago, in 2002. But It is quite different now. This year is the forty-first anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, and this morning I took part in the Chinese National Day celebration in down town Chicago. I am very happy and excited to be here."
"I hope by the festival, Ping-Pong can strengthen the friendship between the Chinese and American people. I also hope to bring a higher quality show to the Chicagoans," the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games men's doubles champion continued. In his table tennis career, Wang has won 14 world titles.
Soaked with sweat, Chen Qi has been just down from the rehearsal space. He managed to squeeze through the wall of fans trying to take pictures with him and getting his signatures.
Wiping the sweat from his face, Chen said: "This is the third time I have been to America. But every time I have different feelings. I hope I can have a good interaction with Ping-Pong fans this time."
"Today's game is mainly to show what the table tennis culture is, though not as fierce as competitions organized by International Table Tennis Foundation (ITTF), I believe it will be still very interesting," Chen said.
"It's always nice to play against most of Chinese friends, I've played many times, say I always found to play against them. I mean I'm enjoying it. I hope that all enjoy," said Swedish table tennis player Jorgen Persson who had also been invited to participate in the festival.
Colin Sato, an American boy from DePaul University in downtown Chicago, hurried in with his classmates. He couldn't suppress his excitement, saying: "I am so excited, I mean I am so so excited. There are people I've watched on the internet all the time. I just walk by today. I saw Ma Lin, a big star. I only started the play a year ago, I am very excited."
Hosted by the Chicago Sports Commission, the festival features table tennis' top international talents at venues across Chicago, and will play an important role in helping the city attract other sporting events and conferences.
The festival will engage visitors, businesses and students via participation in table tennis themed events, and will spur greater interest in table tennis and will make Chicago an international hub of the sport, the organizers said.
According to ChooseChicago, the city's official visitor and tourism office, China will send 1.6 million visitors and 150,000 students to the United States in 2012. These travelers will spend an estimated 12.6 billion U.S. dollars in the United States this year. The organizers hope that table tennis can be a natural bridge to connect China to Chicago.
During their visit, the Chinese champions will participate in other two interactions - one with students of Walter Payton High School and another with White Sox, a Major League Baseball team located in Chicago.