19 Apr 2018

A day full of activities was realised at the Za’atari Refugee Camp on Friday 6th April, World Table Tennis Day which, in addition, celebrated the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

Organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Table Tennis Federation’s long term partner, Peace and Sport, the celebration began with workshops that involved kickboxing, teqball and table tennis.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager

During the afternoon refugees enjoyed sporting demonstrations; notably Korea’s Ryu Seungmin, the 2004 Olympic gold medallist, entertained the children.

“Despite the environment of the Z’ataari Refugee Camp and the lack of sport equipment and facilities, I was impressed by children’s passion in the Zataari Refugee Camp; their passion touched my heart. I have never been happier to play table tennis in my life. I am so proud to represent the ITTF. I will endeavour to support Refugee Camps to promote world peace through sport!” Ryu Seungmin

Ryu Seungmin motivated, the day even more rewarding than becoming Olympic champion (Photo: courtesy of Leandro Olvech)

A demonstration to thrill those present was followed by an address from Thomas Weikert, ITTF President; he was present alongside Leandro Olvech, the current ITTF Director – Development.

“Long months of planning culminated today. It fills me with pride and honour to have been given the task to promote solidarity through table tennis and to bring together the table tennis community worldwide for this cause.” Leandro Olvech

Notably, the ITTF Development Programme, uses table tennis most successfully as a vehicle for positive social change.

“I am delighted to be part of an ITTF project that aims to use our sport for positive social outcomes. As an international organisation it is our task to lead by example; also to motivate others to include acts of integration into their daily lives.” Thomas Weikert

Matters were formalised with the signing of a memorandum with Peace and Sport; such projects as NepALL and TT4ALL alongside the “Buenos Aires – Tokyo, Bridging the Olympic Games” and Nittaku Dream Building with Refugees in Jordan are included within the agreement. Olympic Bridge links the Olympic cities of Tokyo and Buenos to provide a legacy for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games

“Despite best intentions and hard work from all parties involved, part of the equipment donated by Nittaku for “Dream Building with Refugees” did not arrive on time for this celebration. We had to improvise our event with given materials, this created a great sense of solidarity between all involved. Everything turned out well but we are looking forward to receive the equipment next week and start the project with the foreseen materials.” Leandro Olvech

A day of unity, understanding an respect for humanity; in the presence of Joël Bouzou, the President and Founder of Peace and Sport, the goals were achieved in Jordan.

All smiles at a most worthwhile occasion (left to right) Leandro Olvech, Thomas Weikert, Joël Bouzou at the Za’atari Refugee Camp (Photo: courtesy of Leandro Olvech)
World Table Tennis Day ITTF Foundation 2018 World Table Tennis Day Thomas Weikert Leandro Olvech Joël Bouzou