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Table Tennis Balls: Going Plastic for Future Events

Vladimir Samsonov, Chairman of ITTF Athletes Commission, looks forward to playing with the new ball.

Vladimir Samsonov, Chairman of ITTF Athletes Commission, looks forward to playing with the new ball.

Going Plastic for Future Events
Article and Photos Courtesy of ITTF

Commencing on Tuesday 1st July 2014, all International Table Tennis Federation sanctioned and World Title events will be played using plastic composite balls instead of the traditional celluloid ball.

There are no changes to the regulations already in place; plastic balls have been in accordance with regulations since the 1950’s.

Table tennis events may still be played using celluloid balls.

Reactions to Change
On the change, the ITTF President Adham Sharara stated: “Any change in sport usually divides the participants into three groups. The “optimists” who believe the change is for the best; the “pessimists” who believe the change is a disaster; and finally the “indifferent” who just go with the flow.”

“Based on my experience, the proportion of people in each group changes with time, and eventually the majority just goes with the flow. In this case, the use of plastic balls was more for necessity rather than by design. The fact is that the supply of the celluloid sheets to make the traditional celluloid balls is dwindling and will eventually no longer be available.”

Reasons
The reasons for the change to plastic balls for ITTF sanctioned and World Title events are:
–Most countries prefer not to produce celluloid anymore because of high flammability issues.

–Celluloid balls are not allowed to be shipped on airplanes due to their flammable nature; this means that if shipped by air, special fire-proof containers must be used. The same applies when shipped by land or sea. It is very expensive and not cost effective.

–Plastic balls are safer and much more cost effective than celluloid balls to produce.

Manufacturers
There are currently four manufacturers (three from China and one from Japan) and 21 brands that have their plastic balls approved by the ITTF for use in international competitions. A new manufacturer from Germany will be joining this list soon.

The ITTF has kept the levels of specification for the approval of plastic balls as close as possible to the specifications of celluloid balls. Some wider tolerances have been allowed for an 18-months period to ensure best quality. It will ensure that the plastic balls used in competitions will feel similar to celluloid balls, reducing disruptions to the players.

Reaction from Athletes Commission
ITTF Athletes Commission Chairman and table tennis legend Vladimir Samsonov stated: “I just started my preparations with the new plastic ball and it will take a little bit of time to adjust to it. In any case I am very excited and looking forward to Belarus Open where we will finally be able to play with the new ball. I am also very happy that my country is hosting the first World Tour event played with plastic balls.”

Events
The first time the plastic ball will be used in an international competition will be at the GAC Group 2014 World Tour Belarus Open, which will take place from Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th August.

The upcoming Youth Olympic Games will continue to be played using the celluloid ball as this was the ball used at all the qualification events.

Note Well
In order to avoid any confusion and misunderstandings, plastic balls and celluloid balls are both legal, however, the ITTF world title events and ITTF sanctioned events will use exclusively the plastic balls, whereas all other events are free to choose the type of ball they wish to use.

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