Al-Ahram Weekly Online   29 April - 5 May 2004
Issue No. 688
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

On crystal

A unique table tennis table for a major tournament in Egypt. Abeer Anwar describes the latest in sports furniture

For the second time, Egypt will host the table tennis Pro Tour Egypt Open taking place from 4-7 May. The event is included in the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) calendar and is worth $90,000 in prize money, the first time cash will be awarded at a table tennis event in Egypt.

But perhaps the bigger news is the kind of woodwork the ball will bounce on. The final will be played on a crystal table equipped with neon lights. It will display a light show for the spectators but will not hamper play. Consisting of 5,000 pieces it costs 20,000 euros. A gift to the ETTA, the European table tennis final was played on it before it was transported to Egypt.

The Pro Tour events are held all year round, each month in a different country. Egypt is the only African country chosen to host it. The first one took place in 2002 and "due to Egypt's success in hosting the event, we were able to persuade the ITTF that we could do it again," Khaled El-Salhi, ETTA president, said.

The first 16-place winners in all Pro Tours are awarded points in their international ranking. The Pro Tour competitions started five years ago when the ITTF decided to popularise the game worldwide.

The Open will take place in the Cairo Stadium Complex Hall No 2. It will be broadcast on Channel 2, Nile Sports and Satellite Channel 1.

Six satellite channels have asked to broadcast the event live: CCTV5, Hong Kong Cable, J Sky, Epson, Brazil TV and one from the United States.

The competition have 36 countries -- 136 men, 72 women, 52 junior boys and 31 juniors girls. It is composed of six events: singles for men and women, doubles for men and women and singles for junior boys and girls.

In the men's events, Werner Schlager from Austria and ranked seventh in the world, Timo Boll, No 7 from Germany and Korea's No 9, Min Seung Ryu are all competing.

Ah Kyung Kim from Korea, ranked No 6 on the world is part of the women's line-up which includes China's stars.

El-Sayed Lasheen, Ashraf Sobhi, Ahmed Nadeem, Sherif Diaa and Khaled El-Gamal make up the Egyptians in the men's events. Bassant Osman, Ayatallah Ashraf, Shaima' Abdel-Aziz and Raghed and Roaa Magdi are in the women's game. Hisham Ismail, Khaled Gamal and Islam Sonbol are the youth players who collected the bronze medal in the 2003 Qatar Open, along with Ahmed Abdel-Ghani.

In youth girls, Shaima' Abdel-Aziz, Raghed and Roaa Magdi and Samar Abdel-Aziz.

In Qatar, Ashraf and Magdi together with Ingi Metwalli finished third in the team event.

Egypt's table tennis has booked 12 places in the 2004 Athens Olympics, six men and six women. The Open will be the last international event before the Olympics begins in August.

"We need to succeed in hosting this event because it will increase ITTF confidence in the African continent," El-Salhi said. "It will also help us in hosting the inaugural World Continents Championship at the start of 2005."

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