Joined a very happy man for breakfast at the Crown Plaza hotel this morning. He is an honorable man – senior staff in the ITTF and on top of that extremely knowledgeable about anything touching the Olympic rings. In fact my guess is that very few professional staff , in any of the Olympic sports , counting all twenty-eight of them , knows their way around in the corridors of the IOC like our man in Lausanne – the ITTF Executive Director of Operations and Olympic Games – Mr. Jordi Serra.
London 1997 – Heathrow
First time I met Jordi was here in London many moons ago. We are talking 1997, and we were both interviewing for the freshly advertised ITTF General Secretary position. I came with a lot of “coaches know best” confidence, a descent file of education and limited language skills although the English worked ok, my German on elementary school level and with zero French and Spanish. Jordi on the other hand spoke French, Spanish, and English – had organized the Olympic Games in Barcelona 1992 and was at the time working as the director of the Catalan Association. Knowing now what might happen – who can get in and who might be out when it comes to international sports, I can honestly say that the ITTF Executive Committee got that one right – of course they hired Jordi right off the bat.
Can’t say that I am sorry either. Instead by attending the interview I met up with the coming President of the ITTF Mr. Adham Sharara – got a valuable learning lesson and contacts leading to my engagement in Canadian Table Tennis and the ITTF the following year 1998.
Happy Relaxed Executive Director of Operations and Olympic Games
Jordi was happy this morning – relaxed and positive. “I couldn’t imagine a full house, rocking crowd already from day one here in London. It was amazing seeing the lineups for Table Tennis almost blocking the main entrance yesterday he said. If its starts like this we will have a good Olympics – perhaps there will be a different mix of crowds in the coming days – in fact I am interested to see what kind of atmosphere it will be when the foreign fans enter the building – but what I good start said Jordi.
And yes – what a start of the London 2012 Table Tennis Event. Crowds ready to rock – celebrating the athletes who of course almost of all of them responding by delivering their best performance. Here are my personal top SEVEN Olympic performances, one and a half day into this competition – listed mostly With the Future in Mind!
1. The London 2012 Excel Olympic Crowd day one
Ready to Rock! Nothing more – nothing less. What a wonderful appreciative salute to Olympic Sport and the athletes. Classy overall and funny how they embraced the Nigerian Quadri AUNA yesterday and today celebrating him as a hero of some sort.
2. Soymajit GHOSH upsets Gustavo TSUBOIS from Brazil
Strong performance by the smart playing and versatile Mr. GHOSH. Executed well – served strong and put the ball on the table was what he did against a seemingly very nervous Thsobois who backed away from the table with his backhand from the get go, a deadly sin on this level. I am sure they now will celebrate in Mr. GHOSH-s always empty office at the petroleum company where he is supposed to log some office hours – but never does. This is a fine young player that will be there for a long time and play many Olympics.
3. Anything with Egypt – three important wins the first day
Sayed EL LASHIN beat the extremely shaky Swedish lefthander Per Gerell . Omar ASSAR played safe and tight against tough opponent – but the best one was a female , still junior – Dina MESHREF who recovered from a 1-3 and survived by the narrowest of margins ( forehand top spin barely touching the edge) to oust the same aged Russian Noskova.
4. Ariel HSING , USA – slowly learning to compete
Small steps – but good steps she seems to slowly learn how to handle herself in the competative courts. Won comfortable against weak opponent in the first round – but showed improvement and did something special ( I think) by winning her second match this morning when youth (Ariel ) defeated experience (ultimate ) Ni XIALIAN the fifty year old penholder from Luxembourg.
5. Jean Michel SAIVE , Belgium – energy , Olympic spirit personified
Let’s leave the future just for a short while and talk about the past. I was impressed by Jean Mi the first day. He looked light on his feet and in good form when he dropped the always dangerous Serb Marco Jevtovic. Saive won in five games and was flying around the Excel courts. Good win for the campaigning Belgian (running for election to the IOC Athletes commission)
6. William HENZELL, Australia – showcasing placement of the ball as the forgotten tactics in Table Tennis.
Not the most technically fancy player in the world this Aussie knows how to compete in the Olympics courts. Played smart and effective Table Tennis yesterday and followed it all up today with a win against higher seed Joa MONTERIO from Portugal who was caught on the wrong leg most of the match. Impressive showing of how important tactics is in high level Table Tennis.
7. Richard SCRUTON and his troops of volunteers – for setting it all up.
A simple Thank You – Well done and every imaginable positive greeting from all of us enjoying the spectacle in the N1 arena comfortable seated in the Olympic family section – or wherever a seat may be offered. This will be a good one for Table Tennis.
Blogging from the N1 Excel arena in London