A sports delegation from the Chinese universities Zheijang University and Nantong University visited Hungary from the 14th to the 20th June. The visit was hosted and supported by the City of Pápa, in northwest Hungary, and co-organised by the Young People’s Leisure Network (YPLN), together with Pápa Table Tennis Association and Bamafo Foundation.

Chinese athletes were invited on the occasion of the Márk Bánhidi International Memorial table tennis competition, which took place at Pápa’s City’s Sports Arena. On top of participating in this international competition, they were offered an intense and varied programme. Activities ranged from an academic methodological discussion on teaching table tennis, held at the Physical Education Department of Selye University (in the Slovak bordering city of Komárno), to some more entertaining activities aimed at introducing the Chinese guests to Hungarian leisure. Among the latter, visitors had the opportunity to hike from Döbrönte to Farkasgyepű, in the surroundings of Pápa, and taste local food offered by the Bamafo Fundation.

The visit was not only a unique opportunity for strengthening professional academic cooperation and international relations between universities and institutional actors involved, but it was also an example of how a very specific common leisure interest, such as table tennis, may be the spark for a much wider exchange touching sports, but also culture, tourism and entertainment.

The involvement of local community is also to be highlighted, with the Mayor of Pápa, Dr. Tamás Áldozó, opening the competition, and as shown by some other side-activities such as a dance performance by students of Széchenyi University or the visit to a partner institution running a sports programme for disabled people in Dáka.

By the end of the visit, a representative of the Chinese delegation, Dr. Hui Zhang, professor at the P.E. Department at Zheijang University, declared that “Student exchange gives unique opportunities for Chinese students, who are very committed to visit other countries, but still have communication difficulties”. Along the same lines, one of the Hungarian hosts, Dr. Miklós Bánhidi, professor at Szechenyi Istvan University, reflected on the positive impact of trans-cultural exchange activities like this one: “Sports-related travel is not just about meeting other athletes, but also about learning about other cultures. Chinese table tennis players won all prizes at the Hungarian competition, but they were also very kind and open to share their knowledge. All local hosts were happy to meet and to play with the Chinese players”.