Doha-The inaugural World Table Tennis (WTT) Middle East Hub will begin from Sunday with qualifying rounds to be held at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall. The Middle East Hub will feature two tiers of the new event structure, with a WTT Contender series followed by a WTT Star Contender event in consecutive weeks.
After two WTT events, the Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) will also host the Olympic qualifiers from March 14 to 20.
The tournament will be held in a health bubble system, where strict precautionary measures will be applied to limit the spread of the Covid-19 and ensure the safety of all participants in the event.
Ahead of the event, officials of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) together with WTT and QTTA held a meeting with Dr Abdul Wahab al-Musleh, Advisor Consultant to the Minister of Public Health of Qatar, to discuss on the protocols on conducting the events.
During the meeting, many important issues were addressed, such as the importance of health and safety of all participants was emphasized. Since table tennis is an indoor sport, spectators will not be allowed. The local authorities are also ensuring thorough compliance to regulations and strict penalties will be put in place for anyone who breaks those regulations.
Despite table tennis’ powerhouse China withdrawing from the WTT Middle East Hub because of Covid-19 concerns, the event will still see top players in action.
World No. 5 Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan, Brazil’s No. 6 Hugo Calderano, Chinese Taipei’s No.7 Lin Yun-Ju are the top men’s players in the field. The women’s star cast will be led by Sun Yingsha (China, No. 2), Mima Ito (Japan, No. 3), Liu Shiwen (China, No. 7) and Cheng I-Ching (Chinese Taipei, No. 8).
QTTA President Khaleel al-Mohannadi said Qatar was proud to host WTT and Olympic qualifiers. “Qatar has always shown its top class organisational capabilities to the world. And I am confident we will hold these events successfully,” said al-Mohannadi, who is also the ITTF Deputy President.
“We are honoured to be hosting the first-ever WTT events in Qatar. We have made many special table tennis memories over the years and we cannot wait to kick off the WTT era on our shores,” he added.
ITTF CEO Steve Dainton while praising al-Mohannadi’s role in organising the events, said: “First and foremost, we are simply excited and happy to be able to have events again. We know the events in Qatar will be a success and maximum effort will be made to ensure the full health and safety of the participants. It’s not an easy time also for the athletes as we have seen in other sports around the world in recent weeks, but getting international events back up and running is our number one priority,” Dainton said.
“I want to thank the Qatar Olympic Committee and the Qatar Table Tennis Association for organising these event through meticulous planning,” he added.
Source: Qatar Olympic Committee