“The road to Chengdu was indeed bumpy or rollercoaster,” said Steve Dainton.
The competition was postponed once due to a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant earlier this year.
Then, with less than a month to go, the southwestern city of Chengdu found itself under a strict lockdown that closed schools, disrupted businesses and forced residents to stay at home. for more than two weeks.
“Obviously we were also looking for contingencies if ultimately we couldn’t make it, but… the popularity and history of our sport in China has always given us a strong sense of hope,” Dainton said.
ITTF President Petra Sorling said “words cannot express” the excitement as the tournament kicked off.
More than 250 table tennis players from around the world, including the United States, arrived on specially chartered flights.
They, along with coaches, officials and other staff, will be in a closed loop for the duration of the championships.
They will stay in specific hotels, be transported to and from the event venues and will be required to take a polymerase chain reaction test every day.
So far, the ITTF said all participants have tested negative since arriving.
“It’s great that we can play this championship even though the restrictions are tight,” Swede Kristian Karlsson said as quoted by the ITTF website.
As with the Beijing Winter Games, tickets have not gone on sale to the public and spectators will instead be hand-picked by the organisers.
The Chinese hosts are the defending champions in both men’s and women’s events and historically the dominant force in both.
Reigning Olympic champions Ma Long and Chen Meng, as well as current world number ones Fan Zhendong and Sun Yingsha, are all part of the home team.
China was supposed to host the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, but they were pushed back to next year due to COVID-19.
Asian Cup football was scheduled for next year, but China has already withdrawn from its organization.