Table tennis champions give nod to sexing up sport
Updated: 2008-08-23 09:11
Maria Sharapova's dresses may never make an appearance, nor the Williams sisters' bling, but table tennis is at least trying to sex up its sport.
Some women paddlers gave a nod of approval this week to suggestions from a senior governing body official to wear skirts during matches to make their game more stylish in an attempt to pull in the crowds.
"We are trying to push the players to use skirts and also nicer shirts, not the shirts that are made for men, but ones with more curves," International Table Tennis Federation vice-president Claude Bergeret said.
Japan's Ai Fukuhara plays against Turkey's Melek Hu to win the women's table tennis singles third-round match at the Beijing Olympics in Beijing on Wednesday. [Agencies]
With loose-fitting shorts and baggy shirts the usual attire, table tennis, mostly played in bland gymnasiums around the world, has never had the glamor of women's tennis nor the sex appeal of beach volleyball.
Wang Chen of the United States, who used to play for China before moving to New York eight years ago, said some players were already moving to skirts.
"Some players are already wearing skirts, I think it's a good idea, the game (already) looks more beautiful than before," said Wang.
"I think women should wear dresses like tennis players," the 34-year-old added. "I think our outfits are so boring, not sexy."
Wang said sexing up the uniforms would draw the crowds.
Japan's Ai Fukuhara is one player already taking the initiative, opting for a "skort" - a tight skirt with cycling shorts underneath - for her round-of-16 match Thursday against China's Zhang Yining, who wore black shorts and shirt with a striking yellow dragon printed on the front.
Plans to sex-up the image of a sport, which is an obsession in Asia but associated with damp, community halls and youth clubs in the west, are nothing new.
At the 2007 Women's World Cup in Chengdu, a range of sleek table tennis dresses were shown off with top fashion designer Lu Kun called in to handle the design.
"Although the skirts are just a small part of the changes, they may spark a revolution by changing the image of table tennis," explained Steve Daiton, the Director of the ITTF Asia Office.
"It might be a revolution if women paddlers wear skirts during games just like tennis and badminton players, which will definitely help win back the lost interest in the game."
Not all fans are supportive of the idea.
"Don't get me wrong - as a healthy red-blooded male I'm all in favor of table tennis women wearing more attractive clothes," wrote one blogger on a table tennis fan website.
"But I'm not in favor of them being pushed or coerced into wearing outfits they aren't comfortable to play in. And how about the men? Why not bring in compulsory lycra bike pants instead of the baggy shorts many men wear currently?
"I'm sure our female audience would appreciate it. And don't forget the umpires and referees - a little black and white striped skintight number with sequins would surely boost ratings."