by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
On behalf of the International Table Tennis Federation, present at the prestigious occasion was Thomas Weikert, ITTF President; alongside Leandro Olvech, ITTF Director-Development.
Also attending the gathering, which included United Nations ambassadors and dignitaries, was the United States duo of Tal Leibovitz and Kanak Jha, the former a Class 9 Para player, the latter the youngest ever to compete in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games; some seven months ago he was in action in Rio de Janeiro.
An exhibition match involving the two Americans was the order of proceedings, followed by a coaching session for the Sports and Arts in Schools’ Foundation in New York; the biggest schools’ programme in the United States.
“ITTF alongside Peace and Sport has worked very closely together to use table tennis as a tool for social change. It is an honour for me to be invited to the United Nations headquarters to represent the ITTF to deliver an important, powerful message to the world about how vital and effective sport is to promote peace globally. This is a key pillar in the philosophy of World Table Tennis Day on 6th April. We invite everyone, everywhere to pick up a table tennis racket and play our great sport.” Thomas Weikert
Smiles all round for what was an occasion with a sense of innovation. The key message was not only to keep matters simple; also it was to demonstrate that table tennis is accessible to all. Handmade table tennis rackets, plus a roll-up net were used.
The rackets were provided by Ping Sans Frontières, the French based organisation which provides aid to less privileged countries and priority areas in France.
“It has been an excellent opportunity showcasing table tennis at the political centre of the world, in a simple way but also at high level, with two of the best players in USA, Tahl and Kanak. We are very happy to announce also the release of the Manual to build handcrafted tables, produced by Ping sans Frontières with the support of ITTF. It will be released on 6th April and make our sport more accessible for all.” Leandro Olvech
It was a quite unique combination; high level play and sport using basic equipment.simply, a little thought, a few degrees of imagination and the end result is success; the success may not be measured in gold medals but in a more important commodity. It is measured on glowing golden faces; it is measured in degrees of enjoyment!
“Thanks to Peace and Sport and the Monaco Mission for the wonderful event; also to USA Table Tennis and especially Gordon Kaye, the Chief Executive Officer, for the logistics, Sydney Christophe and the children from Sport and Arts in Schools’ Foundation and the United Nations Table Tennis Club. We look forward for the next ITTF World Table Tennis Day celebration at SportAccord in Denmark on 6th April and feel extremely happy for the 320 events already registered in more than 80 countries. We are breaking records every year and show that the passion for table tennis must be shared! Please visit TT4ALL.com .” Leandro Olvech
Play table tennis is the message; also there is another very clear message from Peace and Sport. Recently, Joël Bouzou announced the #WhiteCard campaign, an initiative which encourages people to take photographs of themselves; then post on the social media.
“The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is an important milestone, not only within sport but more broadly around the world. It is the day around which we anchor our #WhiteCard campaign and it serves as a reminder to all involved in sport about the positive impact we can have on the world and our responsibility to create a better future for all.” Joël Bouzou
A “White Card”, in table tennis when raised by the umpire, it means a player has elected for a “Time Out”; does the idea proposed by the Frenchman who was World Champion Modern Pentathlon in 1987, afford the same principle?
It shows a sense of unity but does it not also reflect the suggestion that we should take a break and just think for a moment why we started to play sport what sport can offer humanity?
“Globally, more than 35,000 people are mobilised behind our vision and much of that is down to the hard work done by athletes spreading the word. I want to thank everyone for their immense support and I look forward to continuing our work to inspire and unite communities. Sport is a vehicle for social change, and on 6th April together we will make a difference once more.” Joël Bouzou
Notably in the past three years, Peace and Sport has supported over 1,000 projects, in 170 countries covering five continents. Over 350,000 people have benefitted.
A most successful occasion; attention for World Table Tennis Day now turns to Aarhus in Denmark for the Sport Accord Convention on Thursday 6th April.
Alongside Joël Bouzou, Thomas Weikert and Leandro Olvech, the host nation’s Allan Bentsen, a member of the successful Danish Men’s Team at the 2005 European Championships and Peter Rosemeier, Men’s Singles Class 6 gold medallist at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, will also be in attendance.
Another memorable time awaits; the name is World Table Tennis Day!