The International Table Tennis Federation recently approved the inclusion of the Bahamas, Cape Verde, Eritrea and Guinea Bissau, and now can count every country on earth among its members. It is the first international sports federation to achieve this feat.
“I’m not aware of any other organization that encompasses this number of countries and territories in its activities, and that speaks volumes about the sport’s ability to unite people,” said Dragomir Cioroslan, the United States Olympic Committee’s director of international strategies and development.
The mission to establish and approve national table tennis organizations or federations in all 226 countries and territories started in 2014 with then-ITTF president Adham Sharara’s desire to make the sport No. 1 in a number of categories compared to other international federations around the world, Cioroslan said. Although the United Nations recognizes 193 sovereign nations, the International Olympic Committee goes a bit further and recognizes countries that are territories of other nations, such as Puerto Rico, Cioroslan explained.
Cioroslan cited the ‘ping pong diplomacy’ of the 1970s, in which a US table tennis team’s trip to China helped open a political dialogue between the two nations, and said that having all 226 nations and territories under the ITTF umbrella only adds to that legacy. “It’s an amazing performance and expression of the power of sport to unite in unique ways nations, countries and territories like very few other activities are able to,” he said.