by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
It was fun, not only was it the launch of a new form of our beloved sport, it was a chance for old friends to meet, to chew the cud and give their views on what was beheld.
Objection to Olympic Games
Human nature, for whatever reason, tends to be negative to new ideas; it even applied to table tennis being in the Olympic Games itself! At first there was considerable opposition from a most notable source.
“I am opposed to the inclusion of table tennis in the Olympic Games. Firstly I think the Olympic Games should be restricted to athletes and similar events, where athletes vie with each other, not extend to sports of the football or lawn tennis type. Second, I think sports that do not have their own world title competitions need the Olympic Games.”
In 1946 when suggestions were made that table tennis should be included in the Olympic Games; that was the reaction of Ivor Montagu, the President of the International Table Tennis Federation.
Now 70 years later the views of Thomas Weikert are somewhat different!
Sporting Changes Flourish
Equally I suspect that in 1946 the followers of Rugby Union may not have responded positively to the idea of Rugby Sevens, or those involved in Volleyball to the sport being played on the beach.
Likewise would the British landed gentry thought of Twenty20 cricket, a match over in two hours with a result and not five days without a result?
The purist might raise the eyebrow in anger but thousands flock to watch the new form of established disciplines.
Furthermore, we must be careful not to compare with other developments in table tennis from which some may draw a parallel.
The Ping Pong World Championships uses the so-called sandpaper bat and has the bonus point ideal; the lesson to learn is not from the rules of that competition but from the promoter, Barry Hearn. He is the master marketer, in the United Kingdom he has revolutionised darts and snooker in the past 40 years.
Also, there is the sport of Liha played in the Philippines; again it has the common factor of rackets with the sponge rubber.
Austria’s Waldemar Fritsch has a great deal to answer for; playing on home soil in Vienna at the 1951 World Championships he arrived with a racket covered with sponge.
The complaint from his adversaries was that they could not hear the sound of the racket on the ball; he was beaten in the round of the last 16 in the Men’s Singles event by Hungary’s Ferenc Sido.
Were those responsible for the administering the sport in 1951 slow to react? Should they have banned the racket of Waldemar Fritsch immediately?
If so would we now be looking at ways to slow the game down, would we have needed all the many changes that have been passed with regards to the service rule?
No action was taken in 1951; the rest as they say is history.
Therefore is Table Tennis X a return to yesteryear?
No, it is a sport for tomorrow, a sport with an element of glitz and glamour, bright colours.
It is a sport to be played here, there and everywhere; but is that a problem that faces table tennis?
To play football on the beach, you put two stones or coats a few yards apart, that is the goal and all you need is a ball; for table tennis you need a rather big piece of furniture to be already in position, maybe immovable and made of solid concrete?
So to play Table Tennis X do we need a table that meets the thickness and size needed for international play?
How about a smaller table in size; a thinner top? Can a Table Tennis X table be produced that can be carried easily and be transported in hatch back car?
Perhaps the initiative may encourage more people to play table tennis; will it ever match Rugby Sevens or Beach Volleyball is the question?
Organise Alongside Mainstream
In Barra de Tijuca, as the blazing Brazilian sun burnt the bald patch on the back of my tender head; ideal for the social ping pong clubs that have been opened in recent years, was comment I heard time and again.
However, there was one very positive voice; it was that of Alaor Azevedo, the President of the Brazilian Table Tennis Confederation.
“We will introduce this into our National Championships next year”, he said in a positive manner.
Organising Table Tennis X events alongside the mainstream; it could well be the best way forward.
National associations, a challenge beckons; give it a go!