The 2017 World Table Tennis Championships, which start on May 29th in Düsseldorf, will host many important meetings. As usual, the ITTF and other Continental and National Associations take advantage of the most important international event of the year to discuss a number of topics related to table tennis management and development. The full list can be checked out here.
From all the scheduled meetings, the 2017 Annual General Meeting will stand out because of its importance: the ITTF President for the next four years will be elected at it. Today, Thomas Weikert, the current president, is presenting his candidacy. Apart from him, two other candidates have already announced their bids: Khalil Al-Mohannadi and Jean Michel Saive.
In this article, we will analyze the candidates’ previous experience and their key proposals to cast some light on the possible future of table tennis.
We will present the three candidates, following the order in which they officially announced their candidacy for the ITTF Presidency.
Khalil Al-Mohannadi’s candidacy was the first one to be announced in December 2016. The recently-elected President of the Arab Table Tennis Union has been a member of the ITTF Executive Committee since 2007, having the Vice-President role since 2015. Apart from that, he has been the Qatar Table Tennis Association President since 1995.
Qatar has gained a reputation for hosting many prestigious events in recent times:
“I am proud that the Qatar Table Tennis Association has made huge progress during my years of office and has become one of the leading and most successful organizers of high level world table tennis events” — Khalil Al-Mohannadi
And the following list verifies his achievements:
- 2004 World Team Table Tennis Championships
- ITTF World Tour Qatar Open since 1994
- ITTF World Junior Qatar Open
- 2011 Peace and Sport event
- 2012 Olympic Games World Qualification
- 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals and ITTF Star Awards
Not much information regarding his proposals and key action points have been released. The information available right now is a brief five-point list with his main intentions:
Jean Michel Saive
Jean Michel Saive is widely known for his long trajectory as a top table tennis player. Apart from being at the World #1 ranking position for 17 months, he achieved World Championship silver medals in both singles and in teams, a gold medal at the European Championships and had seven Olympic Games appearances.
Regarding management and direction, his own words justify his desire to become ITTF President:
“I was one of the founders of the Club of Table Tennis Professionals in the 1990s; I have been an active member of my National Olympic Committee since 2001, serving in various positions up to now, including as a Board member (since 2009) and Chair of the Athletes Commission (since 2013); in 2009 I became a member of the European Olympic Committee (EOC) where I currently serve as Chair of the Athletes’ Commission and am an EOC Board member; I started to work for my Federation in 2010 and became Technical Director in 2012; I also manage my private business myself” — Jean Michel Saive
Saive’s experience as a table tennis player is reflected in his program. He addresses the following eleven topics:
The full information regarding his candidacy can be found at: www.saive4president.com. Saive has the support of the highest Belgian institutional position, the Prime Minister, which is shown here:
Thomas Weikert, the current ITTF President, strongly believes that continuing the work he has done since 2014 is the best option for table tennis. In his own words:
“This Manifesto sets out my blueprint for the future development of the ITTF and global Table Tennis. I believe it builds on the achievements that have been accomplished in my first term in office as ITTF President and I am convinced that by working with this vision – in true partnership with Continental and National Associations – our sport will enter an exciting new phase of global growth that sees the creation of more Table Tennis players and fans” — Thomas Weikert
With experience as a Sports and Family lawyer, Weikert’s career in table tennis grew from a Bundesliga player to the ITTF Presidency from 2014 until today. He started as a lawyer for the German Table Tennis Federation in 2002, and had the President title for ten years from 2005 to 2015.
He was also the President of the DOSB Table Tennis Coaching Academy for eight years and Chairman of the German Olympic Sports Confederation since 2009. Before becoming ITTF President, Thomas was Executive Vice-President from 2009 to 2013 and Deputy President from 2013 to 2014.
Weikert’s program aims to continue his work over the last four years, including some of the most innovative ideas which have begun to be implemented lately, like TTX or the new ITTF Website. The following seven points give a brief idea of his full manifesto, which can be found here:
Thomas Weikert’s full campaign will be available soon at www.tw17.org. He has received support from the German Table Tennis Federation and the German National Olympic Commitee in the form of two endorsement letters. A couple of extracted texts from them:
“We feel that Thomas is the ideal President for the ITTF and that he will lead the organisation as successfully as he led our National Association for 10 years. Our support for Thomas is also based on his excellent record and achievements as ITTF President since 2014” — Michael Geiger, DTTB President
To put it in a nutshell: He knows his sport inside-out – on all levels: athlete, coach, professional administrator and leader — Alfons Hörmann and Michael Vesper, President and CEO of the DOSB
Some key differences
After checking the three programs, we can easily see that the three candidates have many points in common. They all included interesting topics like increasing the transparency of the ITTF management or investing more money on development programs. They all intend to improve the communication flow between the ITTF and Continental and National Associations as well.
Regarding marketing and media, it seems that improving the image of our sport is a real issue, as all the candidates showed their intentions to put their efforts into that. Increasing the fun at the venues and attracting more people to the events seems to be a commonly proposed solution, too.
However, there are certain aspects that each candidate presented that are different compared to the others’ program. These are:
- Khalil Al-Mohannadi: apply Olympic eligibility rules to all international events. Reach major TV channels.
- Jean Michel Saive: do not change table tennis rules and equipment in order to stabilize the sport and focus on growth. Improve the quality of the plastic balls to achieve higher standards. Create Athlete Role Models and the ITTF Academy. Merge veteran and senior events.
- Thomas Weikert: develop the new TTX format. Incorporate new technologies like 360º cameras. Invest on Para Table Tennis development and media.
Although there is still time for new candidates to join the Presidential Election race, it seems that it will all be between the three candidates presented here. We will have to wait until the 31st of May to know the result. Will Thomas Weikert continue as President for four more years? Will Khalil Al-Mohannadi get a promotion? Or will Jean Michel Saive jump from the court to the tribune? Place your bets!