Just a few days ago USATT and the Houston Sports Authority jointly announced their bid for the hosting rights for the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships, today that bid was officially endorsed by the United States Olympic Committee. A successful bid would create history for the USA, who have never hosted the prestigious international event before. In fact the World Table Tennis Championships have not been hosted outside of the Asian or European Continents since 1939 when they were hosted by Egypt. Recent changes approved by the ITTF Board of Directors which will take effect in 2021 have opened the door to make a US bid for the World Championships a possibility.
Not only would it be their first time hosting a World Championship, it would also fall in the same year as the 50th anniversary of, what is arguably, USA Table Tennis' most defining historical moment on the global stage - that of Ping Pong Diplomacy.
Former USATT CEO Gordon Kaye was convinced that hosting an event of such proportions as the World Championships would make massive contributions to elevating the sport of table tennis in the United States. Houston was a city that had a track record, having hosted the World Weightlifting Championship a few years ago, and upon being approached were excited for the opportunity and to work alongside USATT and USOC.
USATT Board Chair Anne Warner Cribbs is positive about the potential implications for the US, should the bid be successful.
"An event like this would highlight table tennis to a US audience, encourage more youth - both boys and girls - to join in the sport, emphasize the values of table tennis for all - young to old and in between," Cribbs says. She also pointed out the goodwill created with ITTF, officials, players and coaches from around the world who would attend, as it did when the USA hosted the World Junior Championships in Stanford in 2007.
"The event would be fun and would allow the US table tennis community to host the world."
Echoing those positive vibes is Janis Burke, the CEO of the Harris County - Houston Sports Authority.
“The World Table Tennis Championships have never been hosted in the USA before, so if awarded, Houston and USATT will be making history together. It will be a significant year to host as it will be the 50-year anniversary of the Ping Ping Diplomacy between China and the USA. And who better to help us champion the bid efforts than retired Houston Rockets player, Yao Ming?" Janis asserts.
"Yao knows what a big sport this is for his home country and played eight seasons at Toyota Center - an NBA arena that is owned by our organization and the very same venue where the World Championship Finals are being proposed to be held.”
Houston has it's own unique background in table tennis of course, it was the home of 2-time US Olympian and 3-time US National Champion Timothy Wang and also 2001 US National Champion Eric Owens. Not only that but it now homes the comeback king Jimmy Butler, 2-time US Olympian and 4-time US National Champion - famously winning in 1993 and then again in 2014, after a long hiatus.
The table tennis fever has spread in Houston and even Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey can occasionally be seen at high profile table tennis events, or out on the table hitting with Butler and Wang.
Wang, as a homegrown Houston Olympic athlete of the sport of table tennis, is thrilled that his home city are stepping up to the plate to bid for hosting rights.
"I'm so excited that the city of Houston is bidding to be in the running for the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships," says Wang, "Houston and table tennis have culture in common, Houston has great diversity, and table tennis brings people together from all backgrounds. This is why I think Houston would be the perfect place to host the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships!"
Certainly Houston has plenty of resources and a great case to be a host for the World Championships, we sincerely hope that it will be in 2021!
See the Houston 2021 Bid Announcement here.
Also see the Letter of Support from USOC CEO, released April 10, 2019.