The average Hong Kong youngster no longer wants to grow up to be a champion footballer.
The average Hong Kong youngster no longer wants to grow up to be a champion footballer. Instead he now wants to be a ping-pong star. Hong Kong has been infected by a ping-pong craze following the success of the People's Republic of China players at the world championships in Japan last month.
When the Chinese team stopped off in China on their way home, they were greeted by hordes of adulating fans in scenes usually seen only for the arrival of favourite Chinese movie stars.
In the shops ping-pong bats have been selling as fast as tickets to the exhibition matches staged by the Chinese players. Bats made in China have been particularly in demand. Some shopkeepers cashed in on the demand by doubling the price.
In the teeming housing estates, youngsters have dragged out old kitchen tables to practise their forehands and backhands. Many of them try to copy the style of their idol, China's former world champion Chuang Tse-tung. Sometimes not even a table is necessary to play ping-pong...
Factories are working overtime turning out ping-pong bats. Some are taking advantage of the so-called ping-pong diplomacy and shipping supplies to America. One factory is secretly turning out bats with pictures of Chairman Mao Tse-tung and President Nixon on either side to dump on the American market.
At the Hong Kong sports stadium, thousands o people queued - sometimes all night - to get tickets to the exhibition matches staged by the Chinese team. Those who were not so lucky crowded television shops and around public sets in parks to watch their idols demonstrate their supremacy.
At the early exhibition games ticket touts got up to 100 American dollars for each ticket. There were charges - officially denied - that many tickets were sold privately at huge sums. Some disappointed fans demonstrated outside the offices of the New China News Agency, although the Communists had nothing to do with the allocation of tickets.
However, for the second series of exhibition matches, the Communists stepped in to ensure the orderly and fair distribution of tickets at reasonable prices. But such was the ping-pong madness in Hong Kong, as one newspaper called it, that people were prepared to pay any price to see the world's greatest players in action.