Joël Bouzou addressed the ITTF Annual General Meeting in Rotterdam in May 2011
Photo By: Rémy Gros
2011 Qatar Peace and Sport Cup (Click here to access this section)
The confirmation on Thursday 27th October 2011 that ten nations have officially advised they will compete in the Qatar Peace and Sport Cup, to be held in Doha on Tuesday 22nd November 2011, is music to the ears of Joël Bouzou.
An Olympian; he competed in the Modern Pentathlon in Moscow in 1980, four years later in Los Angeles, in Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992; his greatest success being team bronze in 1984, three years before being crowned World champion.
Sport and competing is in his blood, he grew up in Auch in an athletic family but he sees sport having a far greater mandate; it can facilitate harmony and understanding.
Motivated by those concepts, in 2007 he became the President and Founder of “Peace and Sport”, a totally neutral organisation based in Monaco under the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II.
"The first Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup is set to be a great event!” said Joël Bouzou. “It will foster communication and political reconciliation at the highest level, since diplomats and government representatives from the ten participating nations are invited to watch the tournament.”
The ten participating countries are: Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, People's Republic of China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Russia, the United States of America, France and hosts Qatar.
Sense of Pride
“We are extremely proud to have succeeded in gathering together, under the banner of sport, countries that refuse to mix in other contexts”, continued Joël Bouzou. “The neutral status of sport plays the role of mediator on the international diplomatic stage; this tournament will make a step to encourage dialogue between countries, to promote mutual understanding and peace.”
Clearly Joël Bouzou is delighted that months of planning are now coming to fruition.
ITTF President Positive
Equally, Adham Sharara, ITTF President, was delighted.
"This unprecedented event will forge bonds of friendship between the participating nations; the competition aims to promote world peace and we are proud that table tennis is the sport that is fully implemented in this cause”, he said. “The best table tennis champions from the participating 10 countries will compete amicably in men's and women's doubles matches with mixed-nation teams.”
Most certainly the best; there are notable names present, both Olympic and World champions.
“The Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup will create unprecedented duos that will make a lasting impression on memories and make the athletes spokespeople for peace”, concluded Adham Sharara.
Is not that a summary of the career of Joël Bouzou? High class athlete turned ambassador for peace.
Endorsed by Qatar National Olympic Committee
The tournament boasts a prize fund of $100,000, being endorsed by the Qatar National Olympic Committee and organized by the Qatar Table Tennis Association in conjunction with the International Table Tennis Federation and Peace and Sport.
Furthermore, the Qatar 2011 Peace and Sport Cup reminds us all of an historic event with the same underlying principles.
On Saturday 10th April 1971 the members and officials of the United States Table Tennis Team plus accompanying journalists became the first American sports delegation to set foot in the Chinese capital city of Beijing since 1949.
Ping Pong Diplomacy was Born
It led, one year later, to diplomatic relations being restored between China and the United States of America.
“Ping Pong Diplomacy” had been born; now 40 years later it returns, it returns to Qatar, it returns under the banner of “Peace and Sport” and it returns in the form once again of table tennis: the Qatar 2011 Peace and Sport Cup.
A Reward, A Present
Once again we celebrate “Ping Pong Diplomacy” and the confirmation on Thursday 27th October of the names of the ten countries is very rewarding for Joël Bouzou.
It is very much a present one he cherishes and an early birthday present, he celebrates his 56th birthday on Sunday 30th October 2011.
Adham Sharara (right) makes a presentation to Joël Bouzou (left) at the ITTF Assembly earlier this year in Rotterdam
Photo by Rémy Gros