Tagging tables and whacking winners at Pongtopia!

[media-credit name=”Photos by Bob Krasner ” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″][/media-credit]BY BOB KRASNER | If you are not among those who take ping-pong seriously, it may be time to start. The World Financial Center’s Winter Garden was recently the venue for Pongtopia! — Lower Manhattan’s first major table tennis festival — and the playing was fiercely entertaining.

Over a period of three days, Arts Brookfield, in collaboration with SPiN Galactic (a ping-pong club whose creators include Susan Sarandon), presented a variety of events that made one want to grab a paddle and feel the thrill of watching that little white ball fly past your opponent’s paddle.

Capping off the festival, DJ’s spun tunes while an international group of players spun the balls in a round-robin tournament, competing for a cup and $1,000.

The big winner was Operation Design, a nonprofit group that partners architects, designers and artists with New York City public schools to develop innovative creative programs. The event raised more than $24,000 for the group, much of it from the live-auction sales of five ping-pong tables painted by renowned graffiti artists Billi Kid, Cern, Joe Iurato, Shiro and Cope2, the latter whose table earned the highest bid of $5,500. Custom-painted paddles, 40 in all, were also sold.

Watching the masters at work left no doubt as to the skill involved. Showmanship was part of it, too, especially when Wally Green gave some willing amateurs a chance to compete against him and his paddle — which, in this case, was a cell phone. Little girls to little old ladies gave it their best shot, which points to the enduring appeal of the game. Anyone can play — some of those players are just better than you.