Sunday 21 April marks the start of the Liebherr 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships, when the sport’s biggest names battle it out for the most prestigious international titles of the calendar year.
Just days before the first matches get under way at 10.00 GMT+2 from the Hungexpo Budapest Fair Center, ITTF CEO Steve Dainton looks ahead to what is all set to be a true celebration of the sport.
What is it that excites you most about the upcoming World Championships?
“When you have all the best players from around the world competing against each other, you can be sure that there will be many epic matches in store. Given the sheer number of participants, there are always likely to be shock results too, and I can’t wait to watch as the drama unfolds.
“Of course, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are not too far away now either, and, as this is the biggest eventprior, it will also be interesting to see which players make a big impression in Budapest and prove themselves as top candidates for medalsnext year.
“What I can say with absolute certainty is that the local organising committee, the Hungarian Table Tennis Association, have put in a huge amount of effort with the full support of the country. Therefore, we are sure that this will be a truly unforgettable event.”
What can we expect to see from the series of key meetings held in Budapest around the World Championships?
“Arguably the biggest news to emerge from next week’s meetings will be confirmation of the successful bids to stage the 2021 and 2022 World Table Tennis Championships. It is fantastic that – with Morocco and United States as the candidates for 2021 – we shall be entering a new market to help make the sport more global than ever before. Meanwhile, in 2022 we have three more excellent bids – from China, Japan and Portugal – providing the greatest level of bidding competition that we have witnessed in recent history. This cannot be understated at all, as it represents an historical positive momentum shift in our sport, which proves that the recent changes are having a positive impact.”
Equipment colours and changing the visual outlook of our sport
“There is an eye-catching proposition being put forward by the Equipment Committee. The idea is that players will be able to use different coloured rubbers, and not merely black and red as the current rules stipulate. If approved, this will bring about a very significant change in the visual outlook of our sport. Can you imagine playing with bright green or even pink rubber?”
Technical rule changes
“There has been a number of technical rule changes put forward in the past and last year there was a proposal to change the regulations in relation toboosting – the act of players reinforcing the rubbers on their blades – which was subsequentlywithdrawn last year to give more time to study carefully the situation.
“This year, however, the Equipment Committee is planning to dismantle random rackets at future major events (eventsto be decided by the Executive Committee) to gather more information and ascertain how serious the situation is. The ITTF will then take matters from there. However, before Tokyo 2020, it is important for the ITTF to take the matter very seriously to ensure the integrity of the game.”
Revolutionising the World Championships
“Most importantly, in Budapest, I am looking forward to healthy, engaging discussions about the format and make-up of the expanded World Table Tennis Championships from 2021 onwards.
“Naturally, when you make significant changes of this kind, not everyone is in agreement, but we are convinced that this is in the best interests of table tennis. It is undoubtedly one of the biggest moments that our sport has seen, so it is very exciting to be working on this and it will be very interesting to see what strategic direction the Board of Directors takes in terms of format, system and make-up of the future World Championships.”
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