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

By Sheri Cioroslan | July 10, 2014, 5 p.m. (ET)

Day 53, July 10 - Koji Kimura Commends Adham Sharara for Rule Changes Made in Our Sport 

“His work reflects that he was always thinking of ideas to develop and promote table tennis.” 

At the 2014 WTTC’s Mr. Koji Kimura was appointed to the President's Advisory Council during the AGM in Tokyo.  Today he visits with the Countdown about the many changes in rules that have been made in our sport over the past fifteen years.  

Koji Kimura & Adham Sharara

ITTF President Sharara always says that he values your advice, especially regarding decisions that affect players.  Along the same lines, what is your relationship with Adham Sharara and what do you think of his presidency from 1999 to now? 

Since 1999 when Mr. Adham Sharara became ITTF President, he was instrumental in employing a competent professional staff who were able to leverage their talents to spread the development of table tennis to every corner of the world.  As a consequence, the ITTF now has 220 member associations.  Table tennis is now tied at world #1 with Volleyball for having the most member associations. 

By organizing world-class international level events for senior, junior and cadet players, the ITTF has been able to increase awareness of the sport as well as elevate the competition level in each association. The standard of competition for the whole world is increasing year by year.  In addition, the advanced style of play by the top players has adapted to draw a more positive evaluation of interest in table tennis as well as attracting many table tennis enthusiasts and the general public. 

It can be said that President Sharara brought us to the situation we find ourselves in today by taking the strong initiative to change our rules.  Now our sport has more visibility.  It is more exciting.  It is more developed and accepted by society.  

Let’s take a look at the changes in rules that have been enacted. I have enumerated them. 

  1. Year 2000: The diameter of a table tennis ball was changed from 38mm to 40mm.
  2. Year 2001: The winning number of points per game was changed from 21 to 11.
  3. Year 2002: The service rule was changed to make the ball always visible to the receiver.
  4. Year 2004: Adhesives containing hazardous substances were prohibited to be used in our sport.  Table tennis manufactures were asked to develop new adhesives that do not contain harmful substances. It was decided that as of September 2007, there would be a ban on harmful adhesives. This was unfortunately postponed one year, so the ban started in September of 2008.  Meanwhile, a device was developed and used to ensure that players do not use an adhesive containing toxic organic solvents (VOCs).  The device continues to be used to this day. This created a need for Racket Control and now players who violate this rule face penalties.
  5. Year 2008: Beginning in the Beijing Olympic Games, a Men’s and Women’s Team competition, including doubles matches, was adopted to replace Men’s and Women’s Doubles.
  6. Effective September 2008: There was a rule change to restrict players who have changed their national association affiliation in order to participate in the WTTC’s.  The following limits were decided along with the requirement for each association to register their athletes with the ITTF.

-       Under 15 years old: They can’t be selected to represent a new national association until 3 years have passed since their registration.

-       Over 15 and Under 18: They must wait 5 years to represent a new association.

-       Over 18 and Under 21: They must wait 7 years to represent a new association.

-       Over 21 years old: Registration with a new association is prohibited.

  1. Since the 2011 WTTC’s in Rotterdam, the ITTF reduced from seven to a maximum of three Mixed Doubles teams per national association.
  2. Year 2012: Continental Federations have been included as affiliated ITTF members.
  3. Since the Olympic Games in London 2012: A national association may enter a maximum of two players (previously three was the maximum number of participants per country) in Men’s and Women’s Singles.

10.  Year 2014: The ITTF decided to impose a limit on the number of players participating in the WTTC’s and the number of participating teams in the even-year Team events at the WTTC’s, effective as of the 2015 WTTC’s.

11.  In order to improve the tournament show-court presentation at the WTTC’s and the Olympic Games in particular, the latest concept in surrounds (including LED lights that can rotate sponsor’s logos), the floor of the main court, newly designed tables, and modernized referee tables were introduced. 

I respect the attitude and deep thinking of President Sharara who carefully considered how to make our sport be accepted by more people, including the IOC, and how not to lose ground to other sports.  Sometimes when people did not carefully consider the merits of the proposals, there was opposition.  Once I understood the true meaning of such proposals, including conducting a review and analysis on my own, I raised my hand in support of these proposals. 

For that reason, the time during President Sharara’s service has been a deeply meaningful time for me.  His work reflects that he was always thinking of ideas to develop and promote table tennis. In addition, I cannot forget the serious marketing activities and achievements that improved the ITTF’s finances.  That made it possible to take many new measures such as expanding the ITTF website to include itTV. 

After Adham Sharara retires as the ITTF President and takes the position of Chairman, I am sure that he will support the new President and the EC.  I would like to see him represent table tennis by being appointed to serve in other leading sports organizations in the world. 

I would like to think of measures that we can adopt in the future for the sport of table tennis so that players observe the rules, advanced technology is developed at a fair and right stage, and our sport is seen as attractive. 

In addition, I would like to see the post-match interaction (the handshaking) between players and umpires become more formalized.  The hand slapping between players going on now makes some people feel disappointed by the casual act after such advanced play.  If people ponder this thought, it would be nice to see some suggestions about the way players could show more honor and respect for each other and our officials. 

Thank you, Mr. Kimura.  Besides commending President Sharara for his leadership, you have indeed shown us your serious and thoughtful approach to decisions and rules that affect the players and our sport.