Day 93, May 31
A Chat with Philippe Saive, the Promoter of the 2014 Legends Tour: “All of the table tennis lovers loved that generation of players.”
Congratulations on organizing the 2014 Legends of Table Tennis Tour. When did you first come up with the concept?
Actually, I checked in my archives and found a proposal for a Senior Tour in 2008 already. It means it took some time to be convinced, to be sure, and to get ready.
I understand that since your playing days, you have become quite a successful event promoter. Can you share with us how you got started in that direction?
I started in 2001 to organize first a table tennis show with some famous Belgian comedians, then the official national team matches. At that time, I was still playing! Organizing and playing was a bit crazy. But we were very successful, so I continued. Then we became Vice-World Champion with our national team in 2001. And that helped a lot to propose an international event. The first was a re-match with China, both home and away. The success was even bigger with a full house, live TV coverage and a 3-0 victory over China! It is still, 12 years later, the last defeat of the Chinese team. After that match, but also in continuing with the other activities, we proposed our candidature for a World Cup. That was in 2005. Two more followed -- in 2008 and 2013, plus also Euro-Asia and the Europe Top 12. As you can see, we have been quite active in the last years.
On the Legends Tour website, you have listed 18 different sponsors/partners. How did that process evolve?
First, we needed to have a good idea and secure the participation of the greatest players. Then we made proposals to many people who could have an interest that our project is great. And then we signed the contracts one-by-one. So simple as this ... but also so hard!
The ITTF is listed as an event partner. What has been the role of the ITTF in the Legends Tour?
From the very beginning, I could have, of course, done it alone with the players, like some local promoters are doing. But I felt that it was important for the ITTF to also be involved. So I proposed it to ITTF President Adham Sharara. He immediately expressed his motivation to work together to promote our sport in this way and to show all the respect and admiration that the table tennis family has for these legends of our sport.
At what point did you bring the 6 great players – Jan-Ove Waldner, Jorgen Persson, Mikael Appelgren, Jean-Michel Saive, Jean-Philippe Gatien and Jiang Jialiang -- into the planning phase? What kind of creative input did they have?
We chose to have a tournament of 6 players with 2 quarters, 2 semis and 1 final, making 5 matches for a 2-hour show. In the very beginning, the idea was to make one event. So we chose the players that we thought the fans would like the most, but, of course, some others will come. All the players were so happy to meet and to compete again. That was really great to see.
Since the first event was held earlier this month, how did you feel it went? What is your plan going forward to carry on this nostalgic event?
You can watch the entire live production on www.ittflegendstour.com to have a better idea. Concerning our plans, we will try to organize 3 weeks of tournaments during the next month, 1 week in South and North America, 1 in Asia and 1 in Europe. With all the demand of interest that we have received, it should be possible to make it.
So many people dream of organizing similar types of special events, but they aren't sure how to go about it. What advice and what words of encouragement do you have for them?
If they want to stage an event, we will help them do it. We love our sport and all of the table tennis lovers loved that generation of players, so it should be possible to go everywhere in the world.
You’ve mentioned ITTF President Adham Sharara and his role in some of the events you’ve organized. Since he will be concluding his presidency on September 1 this year, would you like to share any additional comments about his contributions to our sport?
What I can tell you about him? He is for sure the greatest president that our sport has had. Look at all the improvements that have been made to our sport in the last 15 years, starting with a real Pro Tour, with great show courts and much better visibility of our sport. I was talking with the players participating in the Legends Tour. It will be difficult to find some videos showing them at their best. Now, by comparison, you can watch every important match in the world. This comes from President Sharara’s input.
On my side, I can never express my gratitude enough to him because he gave me a great chance by trusting in my capacity to organize a first, a second, and then a third World Cup. In a way, he has changed my life.