Cuttack: Even Cyclone Fani that hit the coastal Odisha in May could not dampen the spirits of the organizers of the 21st Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, beginning next week at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium here.
The devastating damages it had left behind notwithstanding, the state government and the Odisha State Table Tennis Association, the joint hosts, have left no stone unturned to make the championships memorable and successful.
The proof of it can be seen in the Nehru Stadium—it has gone through a complete makeover in record time—and the enthusiasm surrounding the conduct of yet another international event in Odisha, the new sports hub of the country.
The launch of a publicity campaign that began on July 1 at Bhubaneswar and Cuttack speaks volumes of how the government wants to go about it when it comes to lending its support, both financial and logistics, for the first-ever international table tennis championships. It also, in a way, sums up the state’s sports policy and where it wants to take table tennis.
The stage is all set and the organizers ready to welcome participants, officials and delegates from Australia, Bangladesh, Cyprus, England, Ghana, Guyana, Malaysia, Nigeria, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Wales that will descend on at the Bhubaneswar airport. The first set of teams that arrive on July 15, include England and Singapore and hosts India while the others follow a day later.
Both Uganda and Jersey, who had entered for the championships, had pulled out at the last minute citing they could not get their government’s clearance, while a final word on Pakistan is yet to be heard as they are awaiting visa.
Though the event was first staged in Singapore way back in 1971, the 21st edition that India hosts at Cuttack would mark the 50th anniversary, after the seeds were sown at a meeting staged in Munich at the 1969 World Championships.
This will be the seventh time that India would be playing hosts, the most popular destination for the championships, with Singapore and Scotland following India, having organized the event on three occasions.
India first staged the event in 1982 in Bombay, Hyderabad (1994), New Delhi (2001), Jaipur (2007), New Delhi (2013) and Surat (2015).
For the record, India made a record harvest of 16 medals when it was hosted last time at Surat—three gold, six silver and seven bronze medals, including a gold and silver medals in team championships. This surpassed the previous best of nine medals that India won at the New Delhi championships in 2013.
India start favourites to retain the men team championships while Singapore women are tipped to retain the team gold.
Incidentally, Nehru Stadium was the venue where Sharath Kamal won his record-breaking ninth singles title early this year and teenager Archana Kamath emerged as the new women singles champion.