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ITTF: Powerhouse China key to sport's global expansion

Updated: 2024-03-01 09:08
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International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Group CEO Steve Dainton has hailed China's role in driving the global development of the sport, saying it's "super important" to work with the country.

Steve Dainton

At the recently concluded ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals in the South Korean port city of Busan, China reaffirmed its status as the international game's dominant force by retaining both the men's and women's team titles.

"China has been the powerhouse of our sport for a few decades already. It's a big country with lots of table tennis fans," said Dainton, who is also World Table Tennis (WTT) director. "For us at the moment, it's super important to work closely with China and Chinese table tennis."

"We will continue to foster an excellent relationship with the Chinese Table Tennis Association," he added, while deeming the collaboration between the two sides as "perfect".

"We have our chairman of the WTT board, Liu Guoliang. We work very closely together with him in developing not only the China events, but also he is working closely with us on how to manage and make more international events, and I hope that we will continue to keep those excellent relations," Dainton added.

As for the Busan event, the first ever World Table Tennis Championships held in South Korea, Dainton said: "We're extremely satisfied with the tournament in Busan. South Korea is a country with a long history in our sport, with Olympic gold medals and many world championships medals, but has never hosted the world championships.

"It's important for us to develop the market here. We can see the operations have been excellent."

Dainton stressed the importance of staging more major international table tennis events for future development.

"Historically, we've had the World Table Tennis Championships and a part of the Olympic Games. When we created World Table Tennis, one of the big ideas was to make sure that we have three or four other huge major tournaments per year so that we would be competing with other major international sporting platforms," he explained.

Dainton believes 2024 is the biggest year ever for international table tennis tournaments.

"We have this great event in Busan. We have the Olympic Games. We've also brought back the singles World Cups which will be held in Macao in April. We will also have the Mixed Team World Cup at the end of this year again in Chengdu. We've just announced a Grand Smash in Saudi Arabia, and the Singapore Grand Smash is coming up next month," Dainton said, also revealing that one more Grand Smash will be announced in the next couple of weeks.

"This is making sure that we are often seen in media and by the fans, by having these large-scale events," he added.

In addition to high-level tournaments, Dainton mentioned the significance of seeing overall improvement in the sport's competitiveness.

"We have a lot more work to do, also on some high performance and development of international players so that they can compete even more with China ... This is probably the next phase for the ITTF and World Table Tennis to really try and help other parts of the world to catch up a bit," he said.

With roughly 150 days to go before the Paris Olympic Games open, Dainton said he can't wait for the most important event of the year in table tennis.

"The fact that France has made the men's team final at the world championships makes it even more exciting for Paris. It's going to be an awesome tournament," he said.

"China is still the hot favorite to take medals, with Fan Zhendong and Sun Yingsha clearly the leading players in the world, but we could also see some other up-and-coming players, so it's going to be super exciting."




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