Day 96: May 28
Striving to Attain 225 Affiliated National Associations: It’s in Our Blood!
In April the ITTF excitedly announced that it had tied the international federation of volleyball (FIVB) in having the most affiliated national associations. That magic number is 220. In fact, among all countries with National Olympic Committees, there remain only five that do not also have a table tennis association affiliated with the ITTF. Those five are: Guinea Bisseau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome & Principe, Eritrea and the Bahamas.
The ITTF is eagerly courting those final five countries. The common explanation is that we are on a mission to be in the top 5 on all measured criteria among the international federations. The more compelling reason, simply put, is that this desire is in our blood.
Ivor Montagu, the ITTF’s first president, created a rich treasure trove of archives for us to go back to for guidance and understanding of the way the international table tennis family has evolved. In 1939, at the last World Championships before World War II broke out, his report contained a telling sentence of the original sentiments of the ITTF: “In the early years of the Federation, seeing ourselves as evangels for Table Tennis, we opened wide our doors.”
During the post-war revitalization process, beginning in earnest in 1946, he summed up what was then considered to be extraordinary progress: “The development of our Federation to a world-wide basis, embracing almost thirty nations, in a bare dozen years of existence is, I think, without parallel, or at least without peer, in the history of international sport.”
In that same address to ITTF members, Montagu added, “I am sure that we all hope that [the] U.S.S.R., without whose participation no international organisation can feel itself to be really world-embracing, will eventually participate in our counsels.”
Later, in his autobiography, The Youngest Son, he declared, “I plunged into the game as a crusade. That, at least, was my conscious motive.” In total, he served as president for 41 years, all the while (as the italicized words above indicate) an evangel and crusader for a world-embracing international federation.
We, the members of the world-wide table tennis family, are his figurative descendants. As such, we find it in our blood too.
If we were to choose between the two sentiments, “the more the merrier,” or “three’s a crowd,” our history indicates we have always gone the way of “the more the merrier.” In fact, in the last 15 years, during President Adham Sharara’s time in office, the ITTF has added 30 countries to its membership.
So, Guinea Bisseau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome & Principe, Eritrea and the Bahamas, we’re eagerly waiting to make your acquaintance! Maybe this time next year?