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24-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

By Sheri Cioroslan | Aug. 08, 2014, 7 a.m. (ET)

Day 24, August 8 - Shahrokh Shahnazi Promotes ITTF’s P5 Plan, Even to the IOC

“I always admire President Sharara’s innovation and ideas and whenever he needs my help, I never hesitate.”

Shahrokh ShahnaziCan you tell us how table tennis became a special part of your life?

Based on the proposal of the Deputy President and the President of the Physical Education Organization and president of I.R. Iran NOC as well, I was appointed as the head of the Table Tennis Federation in 1996. 

Before then I was the deputy president of Zobe Ahan Company, the largest steel Company in the country. In addition to this industrial responsibility, I managed Zobe Ahan Sports Club in the city of Esfahan. I was in charge of the administration of the club.  It was very powerful and active in most of the sports at the professional level. The club had 6,000 official members and was the largest one among others. Indeed the Company had 30,000 staff members. I was responsible for all of the executive affairs of the Company and its sports club. 

What was the system to decide the Iran TTA presidency and how many years did you serve?

When I was proposed to chair the Table Tennis Federation, at that time, becoming the head of the federation happened through a nomination system, now it happens through an election system. 

What is interesting is that when they proposed me to be the president of the Table Tennis Federation, I was already vice president of the Football Federation. Football and Table Tennis are my favorite sports. Four years after my appointment to the Table Tennis Federation, I participated in an election and then I was elected as the president for the next period. In total, I was in charge of the Table Tennis Federation for 14 years. 

In Sydney you served as the Chef de Mission at the 2000 Olympics.  How did your interaction with the Iran NOC develop over time?

While I was Chef de Mission at the Sydney Olympic Games, I set a very close relation with the president and executive bodies of the Iranian NOC. I chose my coordination committee among the staff of the Iranian NOC. This caused a great success and the Iranian delegation achieved 4 medals (3 gold and 1 bronze), which was a valuable record for my country. It is noteworthy that except at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, our team has successively achieved the best results ever. Since I was president of the Table Tennis Federation at the time, in 2000, I had good relations with the presidents of other federations.  That gave me the special ability to manage very well. 

In 2008, the USA (U.S. State Department, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and USATT), with hardy approval from the ITTF, invited a delegation of officials, men and women coaches, and male and female players for a 2-city visit.  How did you feel about that invitation and exchange? 

In 2008, the Iranian Table Tennis Association dispatched a delegation to the United States in order to participate in a friendly exchange that included a training camp and some tournaments through the official invitation of the USOC and USATT initiated by you, Mrs. Sheri Cioroslan. First we landed in Atlanta, and then we flew to Florida and stayed in Fort Lauderdale for one week. The USOC and also USATT, with the cooperation of Mrs. Cioroslan, organized very well our stay as well as the training camp for our team during those days. They accommodated us in the best hotels of the US. Their hospitality was exemplary, which made a deep friendship between us.

The American organizers respected our beliefs and treated us very well. By arrangement of the USOC and USATT, we visited an Islamic Center in Fort Lauderdale for a Friday evening prayer service. Also, there were some meetings between Iranian citizens in Florida and us; they asked about the sport situation and activities in Iran and we replied to them about the current situation and the future programs.

ITTF President Adham Sharara, who has a positive view about relationships between nations, had encouraged and supported us to take this trip.  He intended for the exchange to expand friendship between the two nations through sport. It is worthy to thank him since he created the sports friendship between the Iranian team and the American team, which will remain in our memories forever.

Moreover, there was a special woman, a gold-medalist Paralympian, named Terese Terranova in this city.  She allocated her club as the training facility for the group of participating American and Iranian athletes.  At the end of the week, she invited our team to participate in her U.S. Open Warm-Up tournament.  She was so helpful and cared for our athletes like a mother.

Then we departed for Las Vegas to participate in the U.S. Open, in which there were about 1,000 registered players. Our athletes competed well. One day before we left, a perfect match between one Iranian girl and boy and one American girl and boy was organized.  Many spectators came to the stadium to watch this match. The interesting point was that the American spectators supported and cheered for the Iranian team.

Here I would like to thank Mr. Dragomir Cioroslan, Director of International Strategies and Development for the USOC, as well as the other relevant authorities at the time, for their sincere efforts to make this happen and special appreciation to Mrs. Sheri Cioroslan, who was like a sister for our national team members, and did her best.

Thank you very much.  Earlier this year, you were elected the Secretary General of your NOC, can you discuss your responsibilities in that position?

According to the Iranian NOC statutes, the Secretary General is the only responsible body to conduct all of the NOC’s executive affairs. Considering my long presence in the sport society of Iran in different positions, I was elected Secretary General in a competitive process six months ago. The Ministry of Sport and Youth and the Executive Board members of the NOC of Iran fully supported me.  So all of the international responsibilities and activities related to the International Olympic Committee, the Olympic and Asian Games should be conducted by me. Currently I am trying to help and support the Sports Federation to be powerfully and brilliantly present in the forthcoming Incheon Asian Games, the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games and the Phuket Asian Beach Games, and subsequently the Rio Olympic Games.

President Sharara also appointed you to some ITTF posts, including as a member of the President’s Advisory Council as well as the ITTF Special Advisor for Olympic Games and Academies.  What are the contributions you making in those capacities? 

I was honored that Mr. Adham Sharara appointed me as a member of the President’s Advisory Council as well as the ITTF Special Advisor for Olympic Games and Academies. Through these two new appointments I could strengthen my position in my home country and I would like to sincerely thank him for providing this potential for me.

Months ago, I went to Athens to have a meeting with Mr. Isidoros Kouvelos, President of the International Olympic Academy, to develop mutual cooperation. As the President of the Iranian National Olympic Academy and the ITTF Special Advisor for Olympic Games and Academies, I explained about my activities and proposed to him some initiatives, which Mr. Kouvelos welcomed.  Now I am trying to implement the programs.

About a year ago you were also elected Honorary Lifetime Deputy President of the Asian Table Tennis Union.  Can you tell us more about that?

Yes, it was a great honor to have been appointed Honorary Deputy President of the ATTU in the last year.  I would like to thank Mr. Cai Zhenhua and the ATTU EB members.

In his report to the AGM, President Sharara stated, “Lately we have also received news that several of our colleagues have successfully been elected at the highest levels of their NOCs.”   How has your stature as the Iranian NOC Secretary General brought you into greater contact with the IOC?

Recently I met with IOC President Thomas Bach.  We discussed together many issues, most of them were derived from the P5 Plan.  Mr. Bach confirmed my points of view. There, I also mentioned that I am active in the ITTF and ATTU.  He called Mr. Sharara a nice person. Mr. Pere Miro, the IOC’s Director of NOC Relations, said, “We are happy that you have many years of experience internationally in sport.” At those two meetings I tried to reinforce the links that have been created between the two top international centers (IOC and IOA) to carry out the innovations I proposed during both meetings. 

That’s exceptional!  Do you have some ideas along the lines of the P5 Plan, promotion, and becoming the TOP 5 IN ALL WE DO.

Regarding the P5 Plan, I confirmed President Sharara’s points of view earlier and I try to apply them in my new position in Iran, which includes all of the sport disciplines.

It’s obvious that there is mutual respect between you and our president.  What observations can you share with us about the accomplishments and change in the spirit of the ITTF since 1999? 

After 1999, with the presidency of Mr. Sharara, there has been a great revolution in Table Tennis.   

Within the ITTF, there has been progress in terms of our finances, our technical and marketing situation, number of spectators, our website, different age levels in the World Tour events, prize money and program development in all of the continents. For example, in terms of spectators and followers, the popularity of the ITTF’s website is among the top three of Olympic international federations in the world. 

We also have 220 member countries, which all stand together due to the prominent personality of a gentleman named Adham Sharara.  Over these past 15 years I have been honored to work together with him.  I always admire President Sharara’s innovation and ideas and whenever he needs my help, I never hesitate.

I have a good memory of his father, who was a great man.  He was very interested in Iranian culture, art and literature.  I once gave him as a gift the Quatrains of Hakim Omar Khayyam Neyshaburi, who was one of the most famous Persian poets in the world.  I heard from President Sharara that in the last days of his father’s life in the hospital the mentioned work was with him. It made me sad and happy at the same time: sad to hear that such nice man passed away and happy because my gift, which had spiritual value, was with him in the last moments of his life. God bless him. This is a special memory between Adham and me.

Meanwhile, I was an Executive Board member years before President Sharara appointed me to those ITTF posts I mentioned earlier.  It was a great experience for me.  I learned a lot from you, Mrs. Sheri, you were more experienced than me.  And I am so happy to learn that after our trip to the U.S., you and Mr. Dragomir Cioroslan got married.  That is a very blessed and lucky marriage.  I’d like to congratulate the two of you once more here.

In closing, I believe that Adham has proven to be a source of wealth for Table Tennis.  I wish for him to be able to continue his valuable cooperation in his new position as Chairman of the AGM, which we approved in 2014 in Japan.  We are ready to collaborate with him.

Last but not least, I would like to express appreciation to you, Mrs. Sheri, for your endeavor to collect the ideas of ITTF officials from all over the world in this Countdown series. You have beautifully presented our sport’s history, which will remain as a very good souvenir for the next generation of Table Tennis enthusiasts.