The Washington Diplomat, a magazine focusing on diplomats in Washington, brings us exciting sporting news:
On Feb. 25, Asia’s time-honored tradition of “ping-pong diplomacy” took on a whole new meaning when [Chinese ambassador to the U.S.] Zhang Yesui and fellow diplomats representing the neighboring countries of Kazakhstan and Russia converged on the Kazakh Embassy to anoint a local ping-pong champion.
The formal-sounding “Kazakhstan-China-Russia Table Tennis Friendship Tournament” was anything but. The host team donned bright yellow “Kazakhstan” T-shirts that quickly became soaked in sweat; the Chinese wore red. In between action-packed games, these weekend warriors quenched their thirst with ice-cold Stella Artois beer and snacked on Costa Rican bananas and gala apples from Washington state.
All that sweat, beer and fresh fruit erased the diplomats’ daily cares:
On this particular Saturday afternoon, the diplomats’ attention was focused not on the war in Afghanistan, or Iran’s nuclear buildup, or the recent U.N. Security Council resolution imposing economic sanctions against Syria that was vetoed by both China and Russia — but on the fierce ping-pong battle being played out among three teams representing the world’s largest, fourth-largest and ninth-largest countries by size.
China won by a big margin. But the Washington Diplomat would like to reassure readers that the Kazakh ambassador Kazakh Ambassador Erlan Idrissov was not downhearted:
Even if his country doesn’t produce the world’s best ping-pong players, it’s an undisputed champion when it comes to vodka.
After the lavish Kazakh-style buffet dinner following the tournament, Idrissov handed each of his guests a goodie bag containing, among other things, a 750-ml decorative bottle of potent Snow Queen. This rare spirit, named “Top Vodka” at the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, sells for $70 a bottle and is the international winner of 10 gold, seven silver and eight bronze medals for excellence — a spirited end to a long day of hands-on diplomacy.
I for one would have needed a few shots of Snow Queen after all that.