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

By Sheri Cioroslan | Aug. 24, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

Day 8, August 24 - Chan Foong Keong Gives Advice to Associations Hoping to Host ITTF Events

“Do not ask, ‘What should I do for the participating teams?’ Instead imagine what you would want a host to do for your team.” 

Chan Foong KeongHow did you get involved in table tennis? 

School Level

My involvement in table tennis was a result of the very instant headmaster of my primary school.  He would ask the students to play with him every day during the lunch rest period. 

After six months under his training, five of us were selected to represent the school at the State level combined school championships. 

From then on I continued to play for my secondary school and my State of Selangor until I started working in 1964. 

State and National Level

My first international experience as an official was during the 3rd South East Asian Peninsular  Games (now the South East Asian Games since 1977)  being held in Kuala Lumpur in 1965 whereby I had volunteered as one of the umpires. 

This first experience had a very strong impact on me because I was chosen to umpire the final of the Men’s Singles – considered the most important match of the table tennis events of the Games. 

After this event the Selangor State Table Tennis Association had requested me to help out in their programs and organization of tournaments until I became its Honorary Secretary in 1972. 

I attended an ATTU Coaching Course in 1974 in Tokyo conducted by the late Ichiro Ogimura (who later became the ITTF’s third president) and Li Furong (who later became the Asian Table Tennis Union president). 

Not only was I involved in the organization of programs and tournaments, I was also very active in promoting table tennis in remote areas by conducting coaching clinics during the weekends. 

As Honorary Secretary of the State, I became an Executive Committee member of the Table Tennis Association of Malaysia (TTAM) in 1972. 

I was appointed the Executive Secretary of TTAM in 1989, Honorary Treasurer in 1991 and the Honorary Secretary in 2000 after the demise of our former Honorary Secretary, the late Yap Yong Yih. 

International Level

Our former Honorary Secretary, the late Mr. Yap Yong Yih, was the prime mover in securing all the international events to be held in Malaysia. 

From the ITTF’s records, Malaysia had conducted many World Cup series as well as Asia and Commonwealth Championships. 

Whenever there was an international event in Malaysia, I always requested to be given a different function in a different committee as I believed this was the best way for me to learn all aspects of organization of any international event – from various committees to Organizing Secretary. 

Eventually how did you become Chair of the ITTF’s Nominations Committee and what are your personal objectives in that capacity? 

My involvement in the ITTF had much to do with the great leadership of the ITTF President, Mr. Adham Sharara. 

When I became TTAM’s Honorary Secretary in 2000, the ITTF had the election for all the committee members.  At that time, each association was allowed to nominate a maximum of 3 candidates.  As I had always preferred to keep a low profile, I did not nominate myself but instead I nominated 3 other of our members to the various committees. 

Mr. Sharara asked me why I had not nominated myself to any committee. I explained to him my situation with the ITTF limitation in place.  Mr. Sharara was very kind in securing the approval from the Executive Committee for me to be a member of the Nominations Committee. 

Before I became the Nominations Committee Chairman, I was appointed as the Chairman of the Veterans Committee in 2005. 

I became the Nominations Committee Chairman after the demise of the late Yuri Posevin. 

As Chairman of the Committee, I was very concerned about what would be the best criteria to ensure the following objectives: 

  1. Fair distribution of members among the continents
  2. Fair distribution of members among the ITTF member countries
  3. Fair distribution of gender equality
  4. Most importantly, committed members to serve the ITTF 

I initiated the following procedures: 

  1.  Attendance list of all committee members for the previous 4 years
  2.  Assessment reports from Committee Chairpersons on the contribution of their members
  3.  Recommendations by Chairpersons regarding the existing members to be retained and new members to be added, with their reasons for such decision 

I was very adamant that a Full Member, however qualified and experienced that person might be, who did not attend ITTF committee meetings at least once over the last 4 years, would be deemed to have no intention to serve the ITTF and, as such, should not be recommended again. 

Based on the above criteria, I then proposed tentatively a list of all committee members in consultation with each of the committee chairpersons. 

If any chairperson had any different views from mine, then I would refer such cases to the ITTF President for advice. 

I am glad to say that this process has been well received by the committee chairpersons and I was able to put up the recommendations for consideration by the Executive Committee. 

I’d like to thank Mr. Sharara for his kind consideration to give me this golden opportunity to serve the ITTF as a Nominations Committee Member initially and subsequently appointed by the Executive Committee as the Chairman. 

On Day 83, I pointed out that Malaysia has been one of the four associations to host the WTTC’s for the first time during Adham Sharara’s presidency.  What was the impetus behind Malaysia’s desire to host the 2000 WTTC’s?  

As I had mentioned earlier, the late Mr. Yap Yong Yih was the prime mover to bring international table tennis events to be held in Malaysia. 

Here again, it was he who proposed to the TTAM Executive Committee in 1997 that Malaysia should organize the WTTC’s.  After much heated discussions, the Executive Committee agreed to organize the WTTC’s in 2003. 

At that time I was the TTAM Honorary Treasurer as well as the full-time Executive Secretary. 

I was never in doubt of our technical capability as I knew Malaysia possessed enough capable technical officials.  However, I was very concerned about the funds needed for the WTTC’s. 

With that in mind I immediately prepared a tentative budget and kept it in my computer to be used as and when needed – never expecting it to be so soon in 2000!!! 

On the day in 1999 when the ITTF announced that Malaysia would be the host, we had just 6 months to organize the 2000 WTTC’s. 

Our then President, Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy, was a bit upset and called me at midnight and voiced his deep concern. 

I assured him that he would not have to worry at all about the technical organizational aspects of the championships, except for the financial aspect. 

When I told him the budget would be RM8 million, I was expecting him to ask, “Why so much?” but instead he asked, “Would that be enough or not?” 

With this question, I was very confident that it would not be a problem for him to raise the sum of RM8 million.  He actually raised exactly RM8 million!! 

After securing the 2000 WTTC’s for Malaysia, Mr. Yap Yong Yih was admitted to the hospital on his return from Holland after the 1999 WTTC’s.  He never recovered and passed away peacefully on 10/10/1999. 

I was then appointed the Tournament Director to oversee the 2000 WTTC’s.  TTAM, incidentally, had a very substantial surplus from the championships.  So after the WTTC’s, I suggested to the President to purchase a building of our own.  He did just that and now we have our TTAM office of 2 blocks of 4-story buildings. 

Can you give advice to associations who have never hosted the WTTC's before, but would like to? 

It is never too difficult to organize a WTTC’s provided that everyone involved must work as a committed team. 

The most important aspect is to have a big enough hall (or halls) to accommodate the large number of tables needed for the championships.  

Once this is taken care of, any association can organize the WTTC’s with the following in mind: 

  1. Train enough technical officials to take care of all technical aspects. 
  2. Do not ask, “What should I do for the participating teams?” Instead imagine what you would want a host to do for your team if you were taking your team to the WTTC’s in another country. 
  3. The following should be the prime and main concern of any host: 
    1. Efficient reception at points of entry for arrival and departure (airport, railway station, Metro station, etc.)

      Any team should not be required to wait for more than 30 minutes for another team to be transferred together in the same vehicle.  

      Extra vehicles should be available for the next team.
    2. Food should be provided as conveniently as possible for the teams with special attention for vegetarian and “halal” Muslim food. 
    3. Transport from hotels/venues/hotels should be arranged with the concept - BUS TO WAIT FOR THE TEAMS NOT THE TEAMS TO WAIT FOR THE BUS 
  4. Prepare a complete list of terms of reference for each function and every committee so that those officials responsible will be able to carry out their respective duties.     

As we discussed in Tokyo, the ITTF’s decision to restrict the size of future World Team Championships has had a significant impact on your planning process for 2016.  Can you share some specifics? 

On behalf of all the members of our Table Tennis Association of Malaysia, I’d like to thank the ITTF for fixing the maximum teams to 96 Women’s Teams and 96 Men’s Teams. 

As we all know, the cost of organizing the WTTC’s is increasing year by year. 

By knowing the maximum number of participating teams, the host will be able to plan and manage more efficiently from the manpower, logistical and financial aspects of the WTTC’s. 

On the subject of the 2016 WTTC’s, do you have any news you’d like to share? 

We have formed the Organizing Committee and have started our planning work closely with TMS and the ITTF Marketing Department to source for sponsors. 

The Organizing Committee has formed an Executive Committee with some key officials to monitor the progress of our planning by having a meeting every alternate Saturday to ensure that the 2016 WTTC’s will be organized smoothly with the co-operation of the ITTF. 

Can you comment on the special ties you have with Adham Sharara? 

I first came to know Mr. Sharara in 2000 as the Tournament Director for the 2000 WTTC’s in Malaysia. 

My first impression was “WOW!!! Such a high position as the ITTF President and yet he is so accommodating and sharing his experience and thoughts with others, especially with someone so small and unknown like me!!” 

The success of the 2000 WTTC’s was largely a result of the constant advice and suggestions from Mr. Sharara during the whole process.  Mr. Sharara never ever turned down any request for suggestions and advice whenever I encountered problems. 

At the same time he was always willing to listen to suggestions that are good for the WTTC’s. 

What do you think about the ITTF’s initiative to be in the TOP 5 IN ALL WE DO?  

Mr. Sharara has embarked on a very meaningful and important process to take table tennis to be in the Top 5 among sports.  With his concerted effort and the support of all table tennis enthusiasts, I am sure he will succeed in his mission. 

What do you think have been Adham's most meaningful contributions to the sport / the ITTF? 

Since becoming the ITTF President, Mr. Sharara initiated many programs and projects that have improved not only the global good image of the ITTF but also provided enormous benefits to all the ITTF members. 

To me the three areas that Mr. Sharara has clearly contributed significantly are: 

  1. The appointment of professional staff has enabled the ITTF to function with a very professional management team.
  2. The ITTF Development Projects with many different technical, coaching and management courses have benefited the members greatly, with many smaller countries being able to organize international events through the knowledge and experience they gained from attending such courses. 
  3. The setting up of a professional Marketing Agent and Marketing Department have enabled the ITTF to secure sponsorships to fund the numerous world title events with lucrative cash prizes that have benefited the players handsomely. 

Lastly, I’d like to wish Mr. Sharara the best of success in his new capacity as the Chair of the ITTF’s AGM. 

Thank you, Mr. Chan, especially for providing such helpful advice to future organizers of the World Championships.