Table Tennis: Waldner shines amid the chaos

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The Independent Online
Jan-Ove Waldner gave the World Championships a lustre it hardly deserved yesterday with his stirring triumph over the young Belarussian Vladimir Samsonov in the men's singles final.

His achievement also banished to the background, the organisational problems that had made the tournament a nightmare for the players and media.

If only the championships had run as smoothly as Waldner's easy progression to the title. Sadly, it was chaos.

A record 116 countries playing 6,000 matches on 42 tables - the most countries, the most players, the most matches, and the largest collection of results.

The 44th championships was the biggest, but they were far from being the best.

For a start, a new system for second-round group matches in the team event was so complicated no one could understand it. It produced a scheduling nightmare with teams not knowing who and where they were playing two hours before the match.

The public were also affected. Some who had bought seats in the main G-Mex arena found them occupied by players.

Consequently, all players and officials were banned from occupying the spectators' stands and those refused included Xu Yinsheng, the Chinese president of the International Table Tennis Federation.

A players' strike was then threatened unless the ban was rescinded and the organisers were forced into a swift U-turn to allow them to occupy unreserved seats.

The media suffered when a computerised results system failed to work which meant results often arrived more than two hours after the match was over - or never at all.

Even before the competition was completed, an inquest was underway with ITTF executive vice-president, Yapyong Yih of Malaysia, placing some of the fault on the shoulders of his own governing body.