Newly installed World Table Tennis Council chairman Liu Guoliang has called for the sport to unite as it emerges from its pandemic-enforced shutdown.

The legendary player and coach was last month appointed to the role tasked with spearheading table tennis’ renewed commercial focus as WTT prepares to launch a revamped professional circuit next year.

Addressing Africa’s International Table Tennis Federation member associations in a videoconference call on Wednesday, Liu said: “I am very happy to be talking with you today for the first time as WTT Council chair. Now thanks to this webinar, we are able to discuss the future development of our sport, and this represents a show of unity among table tennis people all over the world.

“Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with sports events shut down around the world, this may be the most difficult period in our careers.

“At this time, it is even more necessary for everyone to unite and focus all their strengths around promoting the return of table tennis events,” added the Chinese icon, who won two Olympic gold medals and seven world championship titles as a player.

Created last August as a commercial branch of the ITTF, WTT will next year launch a restructured pro tour that will feature ‘Grand Smash’ tournaments, similar to the four tennis majors.

Liu, who is also president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, said WTT’s future goal is to develop table tennis as one of the world’s leading sports. Boosting African involvement in the game forms part of that strategy.

“Players and fans are at the core of WTT. We hope that, through future WTT events, Africa will have more stars like (Nigeria’s men’s world No 20) Quadri Aruna,” said Liu.

With the Tokyo Olympics postponed until next summer, Liu also revealed that plans are afoot to stage a warm-up event for the Games in China in August, which would be held in full accordance with the Olympic system and stringent safety measures.

“Now it is my mandate to lead WTT in order to take table tennis to the forefront of the global sports industry,” added Liu.

“Table tennis people are never afraid of hardships and, so as long as we unite all our energies as one, I believe that WTT can lead table tennis to a very bright future indeed.”

XINHUA

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