by Thomas Weikert, ITTF President
We can reflect on a successful Olympic Year in which we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the International Table Tennis Federation. There were many outstanding events; now we look forward to making even more progress in 2017.
After a year of orientation, appraisal and restructuring; my team and I worked hard during the past 12 months to achieve our target of raising the image of table tennis worldwide. Furthermore, in the background we focused on the stringent implementation of the WADA Code, alongside the Good Governance and Ethic Code; these are topics which are vitally important for operating in a trustworthy atmosphere.
It is extremely important to work in a completely transparent manner and work much more closely with continents to develop table tennis in all areas.
The old year was intense; the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, staged from Saturday 6th to Wednesday 17th August, afforded a competition none of us present will ever forget; so many memorable matches and rallies. Held in Latin America for the first time, the most prestigious event of the year, we saw incredible matches and witnessed unprecedented emotions.
Incredibly, the net reach was 552,300,000 viewers for the table tennis events.
Also, the newly designed table tennis variant TTX, enjoyable both indoors and outdoors, was presented in Rio de Janeiro. “TTX – Anytime – Anywhere – Anyhow” (http://www.ttx.world). It will be promoted globally.
Innovatively, in the recent months, the ITTF released a 360 degree table tennis video, new camera positions were tried; itTV in HD quality was launched on all devices.
The virtual reality broadcast, which we started at the World Tour Grand Finals, will eventually allow fans to watch a table tennis match from any position inside the venue. It means a fan can watch the match from the perspective of an umpire or coach, as well occupying a VIP seat to witness a prime view of the world’s best table tennis player battling for gold.
We are very enthusiastic about this momentous step forward in the way we will broadcast events. We are sure, that virtual reality will be a big hit amongst table tennis and sport fans and will improve the popularity of table tennis broadcasting significantly. Table tennis was the first ever video game, Pong being released in 1972, so we are very excited once again be a leader in digital innovation.
Also, we anticipate further innovative ideas and initiatives to improve our sport.
Our focus will be more and more on social and digital platforms and the day is not far off when table tennis will be one of the most widely followed sports in the world. Using new platforms and even greater networking in digital media, the ITTF intends to achieve an even stronger connection between fans and the sport; thus tapping into additional markets.
Furthermore in 2016 a new and modern website was published.
The ITTF World Tour had a high number of events with all continents involved. Impressively, the Seamaster Qatar 2016 World Tour Grand Finals in Doha, immediately preceded by a fantastic Star Awards Dinner where the world’s leading players were acknowledged, brought the year to dazzling conclusion.
High standards in Doha, it was the same at the Liebherr Men’s World Cup in Saarbrücken and at the Seamaster Women’s World Cup in Philadelphia; new levels of presentation were set.
Meanwhile for the rising generation, the Sun International World Junior Championships in Cape Town proved a fantastic tournament for young aspiring players from all around the globe.
Such events are a source of motivation; they provide the will and the strength to face challenges and aspire to be the World no.1 of tomorrow.
Equally away from the spotlight of the playing arena, there was notable progress.
All continents renewed the development agreements during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Every continental federation signed; the agreements made possible thanks to the high level of co-operation for which I am grateful.
May I take this opportunity to thank the continental and national bodies for their support.
After starting several projects in 2016 the next step is to work much closer with the continents. It is my personal goal that this co-operation is vital for marketing and development; importantly this includes assistance from leading continents and associations in developing weaker associations.
Now with 222 member associations, the ITTF remains the world´s biggest international federation. At the next Annual General Meeting we expect to welcome two more federations that each has a National Olympic Committee but no national table tennis association.
The effect is that only two more regions of the world that possess National Olympic Committees have yet to join the ITTF. It is definite target; our goal must be that our fantastic sport is played all over the world; we must continue our efforts make table tennis live and vibrant in every possible territory on planet earth.
In the past year, the ITTF initiated new projects such as Table Tennis for NepALL, TTX, ITTF Dream Building projects and many more developmental projects around the globe.
Our mission must be that small and economically weaker regions receive our support via the Development Programme; the aim being that in such countries table tennis has a secure structure, a basis for growth. It is not only equipment that may be needed, equally education and training is vital.
May I take this is a good opportunity to thank all the associations who have supported these projects. A special thank you goes to the Chinese Table Tennis Association for sending players and coaches all over the world to enhance the development of our sport and be part of the project “Made by China“.
However, we must be clear, ITTF finances are limited. We depend on public funds, money from the International Olympic Committee and sponsors to continue our efforts in promoting the Development Programme.
The ITTF can act in this area as partner, providing support but we also need your commitment, the associations; this is for me a personal goal.
Pertinently in 2016, the ITTF and TMS entered into a new agreement by which the ITTF took back all its commercial rights as of Sunday 1st January 2017 by terminating the current marketing accord. The termination agreement was duly signed by the ITTF and TMS on Sunday 2nd October 2016. The goal is to increase commercial income. We are on the right path; hopefully we can publish fantastic news in the near future.
World Table Tennis Day
In 2016 a joint Para Table Tennis project with United Nations Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) and the ITTF was held on the World Table Tennis Day in Nepal. It was a tremendous event which was rewarded at the end of the year with the Peace and Sport Award.
On Wednesday 6th April, World Table Tennis Day was celebrated all around the globe; for details in multiple languages and registration visit http://www.tt4all.com/
World Ranking and World Events
Throughout 2016 several working groups fulfilled their tasks. I was part of the group to create a new World Ranking. The ITTF Executive Committee approved the basic principles of the new World Ranking system, based on the proposal from the ITTF World Ranking Working Group; it is due to take effect from January 2018.
Details of the new ranking system will be published in due time with proposed timelines for testing and implementation. It includes a plan to run and to publish the test version in 2017 parallel to the present World Ranking, as a preparation for the official start on Monday 1st January 2018.
Similarly, the Working Group for World Events is co-operating with an independent company to advance these tournaments. Proposals will be published in 2017.
Also, for the 2020 Olympic Games we propose at least one more event so that more medals are on offer; this is a major promotion opportunity with the greatest multi-sport gathering on earth being staged in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo.
The New Year
So what can we expect from the coming year?
In May the Liebherr World Championships will be held in my home country Germany, in the city of Düsseldorf. Elections will be held at the Annual General Meeting. I have many plans to improve our sport, make steady progress and continue to provide our table tennis family with high quality events.
There are challenging times ahead but I believe from the bottom of my heart, that by utilising our strengths, extensive resources and wide ranging capabilities, in addition to working together in a fair way, using our intelligence, wisdom and experience, we will not just overcome these challenges, we will also thrive and have the best year yet!
Vote of Thanks
I look forward to fruitful meetings for the welfare of our cherished sport which can break down barriers and create harmony. Table tennis is popular, universal and inclusive. We want to include such minority groups as immigrants, people with disabilities, refugees and women.
All should have the chance to play table tennis, not only at a high level, also just for fun.
I wish our members, our officials, our volunteers, our sponsors, our professional staff and all our fans a prosperous and peaceful 2017. I thank the ITTF Executive Committee, Chairs of ITTF Committees; the professional staff of the ITTF and TMS for their tremendous support.
We had yet another great year in table tennis in 2016; better than ever in 2017!