Qatar sets to make another sporting history as WTT Middle East Hub gets underway at Lusail Multipurpose Hall
Qatar is set to record another sporting history as the maiden edition of the World Table Tennis (WTT) Middle East Hub kicks off with the qualifying rounds at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall today.
The Middle East Hub will feature two tiers of the new WTT event structure, with the events taking place consecutively, starting with the main event of the WTT Contender from March 3-6.
The tournament will be followed by the first WTT Star Contender event the following week (March 8-13), providing the perfect setting for some of the world's leading stars to be challenged by the best up-and-coming athletes in table tennis.
After two WTT events, the Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) will also host the Olympic qualifiers from March 14 to 20.
All the tournaments will be held in a strict health bubble system, where the authorities will apply stringent preventive measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 and ensure all participants' safety in the event.
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Hub format aims to create the best possible environment for WTT Series events to be held, ensuring better logistics for meeting COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and a manageable travel schedule for players.
Addressing a press conference yesterday, ITTF Deputy-President and Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) President Khalil Ahmed Al Mohannadi said it was an honor to have the inaugural edition of the new format of the world's table tennis hosted in Qatar.
"Qatar has always shown its top-class organizational capabilities to the world. And I am confident we will hold these events successfully. We are honored 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," Mohannadi, who is also a board member of WTT, said.
He added that the tournaments would be broadcast live on Al Kass digital channel for about 12 hours each day, aside from being streamed live on all the social media channels of the ITTF and WTT.
"The tournaments will also be broadcasted to about 100 countries, in partnership with the various media partners, with hundreds of millions projected to tune in," he added.
In line with the necessary health and safety measures put in place by the State of Qatar, the ITTF and WTT officials, together with the local organizing committee (LOC), held a meeting with Dr Abdul Wahab Al Musleh, Advisor Consultant to the Minister of Public Health of Qatar, to discuss the protocols for the events.
During the meeting, many important issues were addressed, such as the importance of all participants' health and safety. Since table tennis is an indoor sport, spectators will not be allowed. The local authorities are also ensuring thorough compliance with the regulations, and strict penalties will be enforced on anyone who breaks those regulations.
ITTF CEO Steve Dainton praised Qatar for putting together such an impressive tournament and for always being the go-to for global table tennis.
"It's always a great pleasure to be here. I'm very proud of Qatar, and I'm delighted to be associated with the country bringing back the sport in a big way. Tomorrow is a big day, and the world tour is a new way of showcasing table tennis. We are using the octagon court, and in partnership with Al Kass we are doing something which will further boost the way the sport is showcased in a big way. I want to thank the Qatar Olympic Committee and the Qatar Table Tennis Association for organizing these events through meticulous planning."
"It has been an incredible journey of three years. In partnership with our partners, we've been brainstorming on how the new world of table tennis will be and see what is happening now, it is simply amazing, and we cannot thank Khalil enough for what he is doing," he added.
About $600,000 in prize money are up for grabs at the tournament, which features several of the world's top stars, including world No. 5 Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan, No. 6 Hugo Calderano of Brazil and world No.7 Lin Yun-Ju from Chinese Taipei for the men.
For the women, world No. 3 Mima Ito and Chinese Taipei's Cheng I-Ching are leading the field.
The Chinese delegation decided to withdraw from the WTT Middle East Hub because of COVID-19 concerns.
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