WE SAW COMMUNIST CHINA
Competing in the 26th World Table Tennis Championships, together with the trip to Peking in Communist China, was an exhilarating experience for members of the New Zealand table tennis team.
The tournament was held in the magnificent new Peking Workers' Stadium.
Members of the New Zealand party were Miss Neti Davis, Miss Norma Attwood, Mrs Joan Green, Garry Frew (Whangarei), Murray Dunn (Wellington), Alan Tomlinson (Auckland), Bryan Foster (Dunedin) with Mr Ken Wilkinson (Wellington) manager.
The whole trip lasted for one month—the team leaving New Zealand on 24 March and returning on 24 April.
Meeting up with the Australian side in Sydney the New Zealanders travelled with them until they parted on different flights at Singapore on the return journey.
In Peking three other New Zealanders attended the world championships. They were Mr F. H. G. Johnstone of Christchurch, the president of the NZTTA, Miss Barbara Packwood and Mrs G. Buckler, both of Auckland.
Miss Attwood at 14 years of age was probably the youngest-ever New Zealand representative. She is a fourth form pupil at the Whangarei Girls' High School. Miss Davis was also a junior at the time of selection despite the fact that she was the reigning New Zealand champion. Mrs Green captained the women's team, and Murray Dunn the men's team. The party left Whenuapai Airport by TEAL Electra on 24 March, 1961, and arrived in Sydney about three hours later. That same evening the group of Australians and New Zealanders boarded another Electra which took them to Manila in the Philippine Islands.
On 26 March another Electra took the combined Australian and New Zealand party to Hong Kong the flight lasting about 2 ½ hours. In Hong
WALKING ACROSS THE BRIDGE
Chinese friends, who operated a tailoring business, guided the New Zealanders around the shops in both Hong Kong (Victoria Island) and Kowloon on the mainland. They also drove them to all of the scenic spots including the Tiger Balm gardens, the floating restaurants at Aberdeen (where the players had sampan rides as well as magnificent meals) and the New Territories district. This was a farming community where the main occupation seemed to be rice growing. It was from this area that the border of the Red China could be seen. Several nights clubs were also visited in Hong Kong. Most of the hotels had their own floor shows.
By the time the party left Hong Kong by train on 31 March (Good Friday), all the players were equipped with excellent cameras. The trip from Kowloon Station to the border at Lowu took only about an hour. Here the party had to walk across a bridge under the eyes of armed Communist guards dressed in khaki uniforms with red tunics. There was a meal at the reception centre on the other side of the border where officials of the Chinese Table Tennis Association met the teams. Thousands of refugees could be seen queueing up on the Red China side of the border. After the meal the players boarded another train and travelled on to Canton in company with the officials.
Canton was the most depressing place that any of the New Zealanders had ever seen—men and women all dressed alike dragging huge carts around the street were common sights. There were few cars but many bicycles. We had a practice while at Canton but were far from impressed with this big city (population 3 million), and were not sorry when we took off by plane for Peking at 7 a.m. the next day. The journey to Peking was an uncomfortable one in a bumpy plane. There were three stops en route and we eventually arrived in the Communist capital at 4.30 p.m. A big crowd of press reporters, photographers and local officials were at the airport.
SPORT BALLET AND
That night we joined many other teams in the Hsin Chiao Hotel, Peking, which was to be our home for the duration of the world championships from 4 April to 15 April. The New Zealand men played matches against Japan, England. North Korea, Cuba, Singapore, Russia, Brazil and Yugoslavia beating only Cuba (5–0) but also doing well against England and Brazil. The women played Japan, England, North Vietnam, Sweden, Russia and Ghana. They beat both North Vietnam and Ghana. During the course of the championships the players were taken on many sight-seeing tours—one to the Great Wall of China—and were looked after like kings and queens.
Following the teams matches, the players took part in the individual events at the championships which were won by Chinese players. Terrific crowds attended the table tennis sessions. There were capacity crowds of 15,000 all the time, Several times all of the teams were entertained at magnificent banquets, some of which were attended by the Premier, Chou En Lai, and they were also taken to a remarkable ballet performance. Two of the most unforgettable experiences were the colourful opening ceremony where 35 countries were represented, and the prize-giving function.
On 15 April we started on the journey home by flying from Peking to Canton. Again it was a most uncomfortable trip. From the air the tremendous amount of cultivation was apparent because of the intricate pattern of fields that could be seen. The stop over in Canton was again made at the Au Chin Hotel and the party left by train for the border the following morning. Once more we went through the “walking across the border” performance and carried on from Lowu to Kowloon by train.
Immediately the difference was apparent. People in Hong Kong were much happier and brighter than those in Red China.
END OF WHIRLWIND TOUR
We spent another whirlwind shopping day in Hong Kong before flying to Bangkok by Electra (a two and a half hour journey) on 17 April. We stayed in the Thailand capital, where it was very hot, for three days and took part in the Thailand international tournament with Australian, Thailand and South Vietnam players. Sight-seeing here fully occupied everyone, a highlight being a trip around the canals during which time we saw the famous floating market.
The Boeing touched down at Sydney at about 1 p.m. We stayed overnight and carried on to New Zealand on 24th April. The four Northlanders and Alan Tomlinson flew direct to Auckland from Sydney while the others went straight to Wellington.
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