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

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

Day 83, June 10 - 59 Editions of the World Table Tennis Championships 

Once the World Table Tennis Championships debuted in 1926, they continued more-or-less annually until World War II. 

Early Editions of the WTTC’s: 1926 -1938

There were thirteen editions in all, with seven different European hosts of the first twelve:

England (3): 1926, 1935, 1938

Czechoslovakia (2): 1932, 1936

Austria (2): early 1933, 1937

Hungary (2): 1929, 1931

Sweden (1): 1928

Germany (1): 1930

France (1): late 1933 

WTTC’s Held Once in Africa: 1939

The final World Championships prior to the outbreak of World War II were held in Egypt in 1939.  It is the only time that the World Championships have been held in Africa.

Thanks to Zdenko Uzorinac, the author of ITTF 1926-2001 Table Tennis Legends, that backstory is recorded.  According to the Alojsz Ehrlich, who, coincidentally, Uzorinac’s book dubbed as “The Recorder,” these are the details. 

“The reason why the 1939 world championships were held in Cairo, that is, for the first time outside of Europe is little known.  In 1937 I happened to meet King Farouk on the Touquet beach in Paris.  We played bridge and someone told him I was a well-known table tennis player.  The king said that he also played table tennis and that he would like to see me in action[.]  ‘Why not,’ I told him, ‘just organize the world championships in Egypt.’  ‘Ok,’ replied the king.  And the Egyptian Table Tennis Association indeed organized the world championships in Cairo twelve months later.”

The ITTF AGM Minutes during the 1938 World Championships in England verify that the decision to award the next WTTCs to Egypt was made just a year in advance. 

Ehrlich’s story continues, “While matches in London were still on, the Egyptians tried to talk me into accepting a coaching position in Cairo.  At first I did not give the proposition serious consideration because at the time no one even imagined a table tennis coach.  But the Egyptians were persistent, and several months later I moved to Cairo as coach, player and organizer….”  He added, “Upon arrival in the land of the pyramids, King Farouk received me in his residence….”  The last of the story for now is that Ehrlich “appeared as an Egyptian” in the 1939 WTTC’s, where he lost in the final to Richard Bergmann.

Montagu was not able to attend the 1939 WTTC’s as he was professionally “in the closing stages of a film production,” but he sent a report acknowledging “the kind efforts of the Egyptian Association and the graciously extended Royal patronage.”

All WTTC’s and AGMs were suspended during WWII. 

Resumption of WTTC’s after World War II: 1947 - 1957

Post-World War II, the next five WTTCs were hosted by previous organizers: France (1947), England (1948), Sweden (1949), Hungary (1950), and Austria (1951).

1952 marks the first time the WTTC’s were held in Asia, with India as host.  Though Japan had been an ITTF member since 1928, it was the first time the association had sent players and those players captured four world titles!

The next three WTTC’s went to first-time organizer Romania (1953) England (1954), and another first-time organizer, the Netherlands (1955).

The WTTC’s returned to Asia, with Japan as host in 1956.  It was at that WTTC’s that the ITTF voted (50 in favor – 6 against – 6 abstentions) to commence biennial championships in odd years so as to “not clash with the Olympic Games” schedule. Sweden hosted the last annual WTTC’s during that period in 1957.  

Biennial WTTC’s: 1959 - 1999

Five out of the next six WTTC’s were again held in Europe and China hosted the WTTC’s for the first time, as follows: Germany (1959), China (1961), Czechoslovakia (1963), first-time organizer Yugoslavia (1965), Sweden (1967) and Germany (1969).

The next fourteen WTTC’s rotated back and forth, kind of like the ball in our sport, between Asia and Europe: Japan (1971), Yugoslavia (1973), India (1975), England (1977), first-time (and only time) organizer North Korea (1979), Yugoslavia (1981), Japan (1983), Sweden (1985), India (1987), Germany (1989), Japan (1991), Sweden (1993), China (1995), and England (1997).

Annual WTTC’s:  1999 - Present

President Adham Sharara was elected at the next WTTC’s, which was hosted by the Netherlands (1999).  It was in 1999 the WTTC’s resumed, with a small exception, on an annual basis.  As mentioned yesterday, there have four first-time event organizers over the past fifteen years: Malaysia (2000), Qatar (2004), Croatia (2007) and Russia (2010).  The balance of the events were held by previous hosts in Japan (2001, 2009, and 2014), France (2003 and 2013), China (2005 and 2008), Germany (2006 and 2012), and the Netherlands (2011). 

The Overall Tally

The following tally shows in descending order the number of times each host has organized the WTTC’s.

England (1926, 1935, 1938, 1948, 1954, 1977 and 1997) and Japan (1956, 1971, 1983, 1991, 2001, 2009, and 2014) have both organized 7 WTTC’s.

Sweden (1928, 1949, 1957, 1967, 1985 and 1983) and Germany (1930, 1959 1969, 1989, 2006, and 2012) have hosted 6 WTTC’s.

France (1933, 1947, 2003, and 2013) and China (1961, 1995, 2005, and 2008) have hosted 4 WTTC’s.  In 2015, China will host the next WTTC’s in Suzhou, China.

Six associations have hosted the WTTC’s 3 times: Hungary (1929, 1931, and 1950); Czechoslovakia (1932, 1936, and 1963); Austria (1933, 1937, and 1951); India (1952, 1975, and 1987); the Netherlands (1955, 1999, and 2011); and Yugoslavia (1965, 1973, and 1981).

Finally, seven associations have hosted 1 WTTCs: Egypt (1939), Romania (1953), North Korea (1979), Malaysia (2000), Qatar (2004), Croatia (2007) and Russia (2010).   Malaysia will host the next World Team Table Tennis Championships in 2016.    

Overall, that means only 19 associations out of our current total of 220 national associations have hosted the 59 WTTC’s held to date.  Percentage-wise, only 8.6% of our national associations have organized the event.

Undoubtedly, the heavy hospitality obligations combined with the logistical concerns (for example, the need to book increasingly larger venues to account for the growing number of competing associations), may be reducing the ability of many associations to organize the WTTC’s.

In the next couple of days, we’ll continue along this line and look at actions taken by the ITTF’s Board of Directors this year to modify eligibility standards that, for the first time, will restrict entries to qualified countries and will change hospitality extended to participants at future WTTC’s.