by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
It was not only the proceedings in Rio de Janeiro itself that needed to be scheduled; also dates had to be found for qualification competitions and into account had to be taken the fact that in the months preceding play in the South American city, players needed to prepare, thus high level international events were not a realistic option.
Now in 2017 there are no Olympic Games, logic suggests that should create considerable time on the calendar and there will be periods when there is a dearth of competition.
Not so; when play commences in Budapest on Tuesday 17th January at the ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open, there is no time to draw breath. Every week until the champions are crowned at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals on Sunday 17th December, there is an international tournament recognised by the International Table Tennis Federation in some form other.
Undoubtedly, the pinnacle will be the Liebherr World Championships to be staged in the German city of Düsseldorf from Monday 29th May to Monday 5th June. It will be the 62nd time that a World Championships in some form or other has been staged; the 54th when individual events have been held and the ninth when only individual events have been on the schedule.
Furthermore, it will be the 22nd year of the ITTF World Tour and if we consider the 1998 Lebanon Open as one competition, when the men’s and women’s events were played separately on different dates, the forthcoming Hungarian Open will be the 313th tournament in the history of the ITTF World Tour.
Similarly, on Thursday 26th January, the 15th edition of the ITTF World Tour Junior Circuit Finals commences in India; less than one week later, on Wednesday 1st February, the 16th year of the ITTF Junior Circuit will begin, when Bahrain welcomes young players to its shores.
Equally, later in the year we will witness the staging of the 38th Men’s World Cup, the 21st Women’s World Cup plus the 16th ITTF World Cadet Challenge and the 15th World Junior Championships.
Add to the list, the Challenge Tournaments, the Paralympic events plus continental competitions and a very full calendar emerges.
It is much different to some 23 years ago when the 1995 ITTF Directory included a phrase which stated that the International Table Tennis Federation was responsible for World Championships held every two years. Simply that was the sum total.
Since the 1920s international competitions, continental events have been pivotal to the calendar and the International Table Tennis Federation has always played a role but now that role, the element of responsibility is very different. The direct involvement is much greater as competition managers travel to the four corners of the world.
In 2017, they will be busy people and that is good news for our sport; no Olympic Games but a full calendar. The conclusion is clear, our sport is in a very healthy state, a very healthy state indeed.