by Ian Marshall, Editor
There is an event for everyone; no less than 64 in total are planned, catering for players from six years of age to over 90 years young, representing no less than 44 national associations. Players range from those who have played on the world stage to those who are better suited to the kitchen table.
Notably the names of the host nation’s Laurens Devos and Florian Van Acker, both gold medallists at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, appear on the entry list.
Moreover, this year is a landmark event; it is the 40th anniversary of a tournament that for many is more like an annual pilgrimage.
The Ostend Table Tennis Club commenced life in 1958; a large membership but no great success. In 1977 Daniel Bossier from the City of Ostend asked Jacques Denys, the man who has been the organiser since that very first tournament, if he would organise a small one day event as a means of attracting tourists to the region. The theme was “Ostend Moves”.
Jacques Denys agreed, the tournament was an immediate success; the following year in 1978, a total of 284 entries utilising eight 8 tables was staged.
Centre to activities was the late Joseph Vandenheuvel, he lived for the tournament, perched on chair similar to the height of that on which sits the lifeguard at the swimming pool, the players for a class would be summoned, find their opponent then wait in the pen to be allocated a table. If no opponent was found then Joseph Vandenheuvel announced the words for which he became famous, the distinctive sound of “sratché” resonated around the hall.
In 1981 the highest level was introduced with the Masters tournament, which since that date has won by such notable names as China’s Chen Zhibin, Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus and the host nation’s Jean-Michel Saive. Ten years hence, the tournament was held over three days with no less than 46 tables accommodating 1,500 players.
However, in 1998, the event suffered a set-back, in May, some three months before the scheduled date, a 30 metre high crane fell on the sports centre, the roof badly damaged, the tournament had to be cancelled.
One year later normal service was resumed, by 2010 the organisers could justly lay claim the fact they organised the biggest tournament in Europe, a five day event on 46 tables
Over 60 volunteers will be present this year, the tournament being made possible thanks to the support of the City of Ostend Tourism, the Flemish Government for Flanders Sport, the region of West Flanders, KW, Tibhar, Radio Oostende and a host of sponsors.
Once again “Ostend Moves”.