Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion around ONE table: Wrapping up World Table Tennis Day 2024

World Table Tennis Day 2024 has drawn to a close. This year, the worldwide table tennis community witnessed a record-breaking number of over 750 registered celebration events spanning 121 countries, territories, and/or Member Associations, setting a new standard for global participation. The theme of Diversity and Inclusion permeated every aspect of the day, reflecting the core values of table tennis as a sport that transcends borders, languages, and cultures, and welcomes individuals from all backgrounds.

 

Epicenter celebration in Leipzig, Germany

The ITTF Foundation orchestrated a celebration hub in Leipzig, Germany, where its headquarters are located. Coinciding with the 5th anniversary of the ITTF Foundation, this milestone event not only celebrated the passion and joy of table tennis within the Foundation's home city but also underscored the Foundation's commitment to using the sport as a vehicle for social inclusion and unity.

On 23 April, the President of ITTF and ITTF Foundation, Petra Sörling, opened the WTTD 2024 epicenter event in Leipzig, Germany, “Today is more than just competition; it's about the spirit of togetherness and inclusivity that table tennis embodies. We get together to enjoy the game, have a good time, and celebrate the pure joy of playing. And here in Leipzig, we're ready to continue this tradition.”

 

The Leipzig event featured the unique TTBelongsToYou Teams Tournament, which embraced inclusivity by involving people with disabilities, refugees, and individuals from diverse backgrounds, gender identities, and ages.

This inclusive tournament allowed participants to earn points even before stepping onto the table, fostering camaraderie and enjoyment among teams of varying skill levels and backgrounds.

 

A mixed doubles showcase match further highlighted the theme of diversity, featuring an array of players including Croatian table tennis legend Zoran Primorac, Egyptian Paralympic star Ibrahim Hamadtou, German youth champion Mia Griesel, and Ukrainian refugee players Mariia Vassikieva and Tetiana Bairak from the deaf-mute national team.

This exhibition match not only entertained the audience but also served as a powerful demonstration of how table tennis transcends barriers and brings people together.

 

Amidst the buzz at Leipzig Central Station, a round table discussion on Diversity and Inclusion convened stakeholders and decision-makers from global, continental, national, and municipal levels within the table tennis and sports community. Notable participants included Petra Sörling, President of ITTF and ITTF Foundation; Pedro Moura, President of the European Table Tennis Union; Andreas Hain, President of the German Table Tennis Federation; Game Mothibi, Senior Manager at TAFISA; Jens Elsner, Head of Programme (Sport for Development) at GIZ; Manuela Andrich, Head of Department and Commissioner for Migration and Integration in Leipzig; and Zoran Primorac, a distinguished table tennis legend and President of the Croatian Table Tennis Association.

This dialogue sparked reflections on the status quo and laid the groundwork for future collaborative efforts to make table tennis more diverse, inclusive, and accessible for all worldwide. Moreover, served as an initiative, this discussion is expected to be replicated globally with the hope to include more people in the sport and generate a positive impact in society through table tennis.

 

Continental celebrations supported by ITTF Foundation

On the continental scale, the ITTF Foundation supported the five Continental Federations to amplify the message of Diversity and Inclusion across Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and the Americas. Each of the five Continental Federations organised the celebration by selecting a country, territory, and/or Member Association to host the official continental celebration.

In Africa, Morocco was chosen by the African Table Tennis Federation to host the official celebration. In Asia, the Asia Table Tennis Union selected the Lebanese Table Tennis Federation to be the host. Europe's torchbearer is Germany selected by the European Table Tennis Union. In Oceania, the ITTF-Oceania has entrusted Table Tennis Australia. And in the Americas, the celebration took place in Costa Rica hosted by the Costa Rica Table Tennis Federation.

 

WTTD 2024 Promoters amplifying the celebratory vibes

On a global level, the ITTF Foundation selected and supported 32 dedicated Promoters from 29 countries, territories, and/or Member Associations. Through their initiatives and the Promoters workshops organised by the ITTF Foundation as a guide and support, these Promoters have fostered positive values on social inclusion and inspired joy and participation for WTTD.

 

Diversity and Inclusion Handbook: A theoretical and practical guide

As a testament to its commitment to the theme, the ITTF Foundation also crafted the World Table Tennis Day Diversity and Inclusion Handbook to exemplify its leadership in making the table tennis community more welcome to everyone.

Developed with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the handbook equips stakeholders in the table tennis community with practical tools and strategies to foster welcoming environments and address diversity challenges in various geographical and contextual settings.

 

Empowering communities through table-mapping initiative

To further implement and practice Diversity and Inclusion in the table tennis community, the ITTF Foundation partnered with Pongmasters to launch a worldwide table-mapping initiative. Utilising the Pongmasters app, individuals are encouraged to identify and map table tennis tables within their local communities.

Beyond pinpointing locations, this initiative seeks to capture key Diversity and Inclusion parameters such as wheelchair accessibility and lighting conditions. By creating a comprehensive world map of table tennis tables, the access to the game for individuals from all backgrounds and abilities will be enhanced, embodying the spirit that lies at the heart of WTTD.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the ITTF and GIZ, our principal partners for WTTD 2024. Thank you for your support in making this special day unforgettable and a resounding success.

As we reflect on the grand celebration of WTTD 2024, let us keep carrying the momentum and spirit forward. Regardless of your skill level and who you are, just grab a racket and walk to the table. Let's continue to spread the joy of the game and build a more inclusive world, one rally at a time. Because table tennis belongs to you, and to everyone.

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If you are a registered event organiser, we invite you to share highlight photos and videos of your WTTD 2024 celebration with us. Showcase your passion to the world and stand a chance to be featured in an article on the ITTF Foundation website, along with exciting table tennis prizes. (Click here to learn more about how to share your highlights)

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