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Coronavirus: Table tennis must seize the opportunity to reinvent itself, says world head of Sport News & Top Stories




SINGAPORE – Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the sports landscape, but chaos has also presented opportunities for reinvention and new ideas, point from CEO of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Steve Dainton hopes to capitalize .

The Australian had proposed Sunday, April 12, the elimination of the biennial individual world championships in sport, the world champions may be decided by the winners of the new mega tournaments “Grand Smash”.

It will be three to four events with up to $ 3 million ($ 4.3 million) in prizes, and will be part of the new World Table Tennis (WTT) initiative to make the sport more commercially successful .

There are no plans to abandon the team championships and the Olympic tournaments.

WTT is expected to start next year and could receive a total portfolio of $ 13 million per year, more than double the current amount.

In an exclusive telephone interview with the Straits Times on Tuesday, Dainton stressed that his goal was not to neglect the legacy of the sport – the biennial individual championships began in 1926 – but to evolve it.

He said: “The problem is that we don’t think we are being promoted as a sport enough times a year. Once every two years is too little, so we want to see how we can fix it.”

Singapore’s No. 9 world paddler Feng Tianwei supported the proposal. She said: “Knowing that the ITTF is trying to promote table tennis and make it more popular and marketable globally, I support its initiatives. After all, the sport must continue to grow.”

Fellow compatriot Yu Mengyu, who won three women’s bronzes in doubles with Feng at the 2013, 2015 and 2017 individual championships, was less enthusiastic.

The world number 55 said: “It will be really sad to suppress the tournament because many paddlers and our young generation will lose the opportunity to participate and play against the best in the world in such a prestigious competition.”

No decision has yet been made, Dainton noted, adding that the ITTF will seek the views of stakeholders before its executive committee decides.

One of the problems is the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to next year, which will cause a calendar congestion.

Athletes may skip tournaments too close to the Summer Games for fear of injury and the potential host cities for Grand Smash are currently occupied by the Covid-19 pandemic, Daintonacknowledged.

“It is inevitable that the brakes will be put on the WTT,” he said, adding that his team was trying to finalize the host cities for a smooth launch of the inaugural WTT season.

“We need to reduce the number of events and the overall screenings we had in terms of price and general enthusiasm.”

Another scenario the ITTF faces is a significant loss of revenue from postponed and canceled events if the coronavirus extends until 2021.

He revealed that the organization had instituted pay cuts – 10-15% – for all staff and the president and that the savings would be around US $ 500,000 based on their current decision to cancel the activities until the end of June.

Dainton said the ITTF had benefited from the commercialization of its properties 20 years ago and that its dependence on funding from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has dropped from 80% to less than 20%.

Depending on their category, the 28 international Olympic sports federations were to receive substantial funds from the IOC after Tokyo 2020.

Table tennis is at the third of five levels and was expected to cost $ 17 million.

Meanwhile, more than 60% of ITTF’s revenue comes from their commercial properties such as the world championships, world cups and world tours.

Dainton added: “Even if there is a small reduction due to the postponement of the Olympic Games, it will not have a major impact on our overall financial situation. But if the Olympic Games are canceled, then there will be a relatively greater impact.

“We hope the virus will be brought under control soon. If we can organize our events towards the end of the year, we don’t see a very significant impact. But if we can’t have events in 2020, we really have to try to cut our costs a lot more. “

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