Backspin: What’s in a name?

Table tennis in the Oceania region has been played under many banners. Just one of six continental federations operating within the International Table Tennis Federation, it has been the Oceania Table Tennis Federation, while now it simply called ITTF-Oceania; brevity is beautiful.

But it was called something completely different when it was first identified by ITTF.

Norm Ballinger from New Zealand was nominated and elected to ITTF as a Vice-President in 1949. But what was the specific region his jurisdiction fell under?

Ballinger was Vice-President: ‘Other Continents Zone’.

Yes, ‘Other Continents Zone’. Never has such a nondescript title been used to describe such a significant slice of the world.

It’s a curious name, giving the region a mythical unchartered characteristic. This isn’t too surprising when considering ITTF was founded in 1926; there was more than two decades where Oceania wasn’t even on the map. Even today it still holds a great deal of curiosity to many European players, who see the journey to the other side of the world as a monumental life moment.

“Other Continents Zone” didn’t sit too well with Australia and New Zealand, and they thought a different name would be preferred rather than being filed under miscellaneous, and Oceania was proposed. And even though it would be another thirty years before the region had its own fully fledged continental association, the name Oceania stuck.