20th January, 2016
There are strong indications that the annual Lagos Open will hold this year, as International Table Tennis Federation, ITTF, Wednesday listed the championship among its series of competitions in 2016.
Lagos Open has been one of the nine sporting events in the calendar of activities of Lagos International Sports Classics, an innovation of former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola-led government in Lagos State to expose the state athletes to international sporting arena as well as put to use world class sports facilities built with tax payers’ money in Lagos.
The Classics is also a pool of competitions designed to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Lagos State as one of the fast growing and fast advancing emerging mega cities of the world.
Since the government of Akinwunmi Ambode came on board, there has been apprehension among sports faithful in Lagos that the policy thrust of the present government may do away with some of the innovations of the immediate past government especially with the scrapping of the Ministry of Sports to give birth to the present Lagos State Sport Commission (LSSC) headed by a Chairman, Mr. Deji Tinubu, who also doubles as Special Adviser of Sports to the Governor of Lagos State.
However, when releasing its programme for the table tennis world tours on Wednesday, the ITTF confirmed the annual Lagos Open among the 20 World Tours listed for 2016. With the ongoing Hungarian Open kick-starting the 20 anniversary of the ITTF World Tour, the world table tennis ruling body confirmed Lagos Open to hold from 18-22 May at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.
As one of the challenge series, the Lagos Open is expected to attract players from Europe, Asia and Africa as the tournament serves as one on the point hauling events to qualify for the World Tour Finals.
The 2015 Lagos Open was held from 10-14 March.
Meanwhile, President, Nigeria Table Tennis Federation, NTTF, Wahid Oshodi, has said that the federation could produce more stars like 2014 ITTF Star Player, Aruna Quadri, to become world beaters, with more support from the National Sports Commission, NSC, coupled with the efforts being made by the federation to attract corporate bodies.
While assessing the performance of NTTF in 2015, Oshodi gave the federation a pass mark despite financial problems that prevented the federation’s players to attend some important events like the African Juniors in Mauritius and the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships in India.
Oshodi, who thanked his board members and friends in table tennis who personally support the players to buy equipment and attend tournaments, said the Lagos State Government had been supportive in terms of putting their infrastructure at their disposal, adding that the federation still need good consistent funding to achieve its goals.
He said the Schlaeger Table Tennis Academy, which according to him was the foremost table tennis academy in the world in Austria, had offered Nigeria its facilities including coaching at a heavily subsidised rate to assist Nigerian tennis player and coaches both at the senior and junior levels.
On the major tournaments in 2016, Oshodi, the immediate past Commissioner for Youth, Sports and Social Development in Lagos State, noted that the major tournaments this year are the Africa Top 16 which serves as Africa’s qualifier for the World Cup and Olympic Qualifiers which will take place next month in Sudan and the World Team Championships in Malaysia also in February since the highest ranked African team would likely take Africa’s only slot in the Olympic team event.
He said Nigeria was currently neck and neck with Egypt, hence the federation must play very well at these tournaments to make the nation proud, stressing that arrangements are in top gear for the 4th edition of the Lagos International Open holding in May before the players go into their final phase of training for the Olympics in the summer.