The ITTF Summit 2023 burst into action on its first day in Bangkok, Thailand, with an atmosphere charged with the themes of growth, innovation, and collaboration. Setting the tone for the event, Nattavuth Ruengves, President of the Table Tennis Association of Thailand, extended a warm welcome to all participants. A special moment followed as Natthanicha Buasuwan, a rising Thai youth player, shared the stage with ITTF President Petra Sörling and ITTF Group CEO Steve Dainton, symbolising the interest in the future of the sport and hearing from the future generation of players that defines the sport.
“We’re thrilled to have everyone gathered here with us. Table tennis is growing in Thailand, and it is an honour, really, as the Table Tennis Association of Thailand, to welcome you all. These coming days hold promise, and we’re excited to share this journey with everyone. Let’s make it a time to remember, and from all of us from TTAT, a big thank you to ITTF for their support. And to all participants, a heartfelt thank you for being here and I hope you have a great time in Bangkok!” – Nattavuth Ruengves
The Open Forum on the New Strategic Plan was a fitting opening act, as Petra Sörling and Steve Dainton unveiled an all-encompassing roadmap for the sport’s future that followed three pillars: Governance and Sustainability, Business Growth and Society and Health.
This marked the beginning of a series of thought-provoking dialogues that would shape the trajectory of table tennis globally. The Plenary Session, honed in on the growth of table tennis, elevated the discourse even further. A highlight of this session was ‘Charting a Path to Sustainable Growth,’ guided by Marie Sallois-Dembreville, Corporate and Sustainable Development Director of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In her presentation, Marie explained strategies aimed at harmonising the diverse facets of table tennis growth, a pivotal insight that would resonate throughout the day.
Gilles Erb, President of the French Table Tennis Federation (FFTT), took the stage to introduce innovative disciplines that are rewriting the rules of the game. ‘Outdoor Table Tennis’ emerged as a thrilling initiative, designed to engage millions of enthusiasts by offering accessible public table tennis setups. Gilles also introduced how FFTT was using VR table tennis to reach the new audiences, and shared how FFTT successfully organised the inaugural French Virtual Table Tennis Championship in December 2022, showcasing their embrace of cutting-edge technology for growth.
Leandro Olvech, Director of the ITTF Foundation, added to the discourse by highlighting the emerging discipline of Parkinson’s Table Tennis. He emphasised the sport’s remarkable impact on neurological disorders and revealed the upcoming World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships, a highlight of the upcoming World Table Tennis for Health Festival (WTT4HF), happening in Crete, Greece from 1 to 5 November.
One of the new introductions of this year’s event was the Workshops Sessions which brought forth a spectrum of strategic insights. In one session, participants embarked on a journey of revenue amplification, as experienced figures within the ITTF family delved into the art of crafting revenue streams tailored to table tennis events of varying scales. Another illuminating workshop unlocked new dimensions of growth, emphasising the power of collaboration and the thriving potential within WTT events. Here, attendees drew inspiration from firsthand accounts of success shared by Tomaž Kralj, President of the Slovenian Table Tennis Association, and Ishaku Tikon, President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation, who detailed the transformative impact of leveraging WTT events for player development, exposure, and organisational advancement.
The essence of responsible governance and ethical financial practices took centre stage in another session, led by Alaor Azevedo, ITTF Executive Vice President, Wahid Oshodi, ITTF Executive Vice President, and Sarah Sandley, Deputy President of ITTF Oceania. This workshop underscored that responsible governance paves the way for sustainable growth, offering insights on securing funding from diverse sources. Lastly, the Diversity & Inclusion for Growth session, led by passionate advocate Gabriela Müller, provided impactful insights on dismantling barriers, spotlighting gender parity, representation, and universal accessibility, all with the aim of fostering a more enriched table tennis environment for all. Attendees of all workshops left with a deeper understanding of how to drive growth, embrace innovation, and cultivate an inclusive table tennis community—a testament to the unity and collective spirit that defines the sport.
With the conclusion of a spirited first day, the spotlight now turns to Day 2, a day that will be explore the ‘Future of ITTF World Championships.’ The excitement is palpable as attendees eagerly await insights on the ITTF World Team Championships Finals and the evolutionary path of the event. These discussions are poised to continue the momentum of enlightening dialogues, propelling table tennis further into the realm of progress and innovation.