(by Ian Marshall)
Increasingly the health benefits of table tennis are being realised; in addition to being an excellent form of exercise, it´s acknowledged by many as an effective treatment against Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases.
Destination Halmstad, host for the World Team Championships (WTTC 2018) to be staged in the Swedish city of Halmstad from Sunday 29th April to Sunday 6th May, has quickly recognised such benefits.
Thus the Ping Pong Power, the registered brand and marketing concept owned by Destination Halmstad and the Swedish Table Tennis Association, the organisers of the WTTC2018, was launched. A community based marketing promotion concept, the aim is to spread the message far and wide to create awareness of the Championships.
Matters are spearheaded by Johan Lundberg, the Chief Executive Officer of Destination Halmstad and one of the initiators for bringing the event to Halmstad. Alongside Thomas Buza, the 2018 World Championships Marketing and Communication Director and Peter Johansson; they are major forces behind the whole endeavour.
“From the point of accepting the challenge to host this amazing event, it has been really important to create an inviting and sustainable Championships for everyone, not limited only to the “table tennis family”. Besides that, one of our main goals is also to leave some sort of legacy after the last point has been played. We want table tennis to be a vital part of our community even after the Championships.” Johan Lundberg
Less than one year to go before the first ball is hit in anger at WTTC2018, Ping Power has already been most active; enterprising initiatives have proved successful.
“Since the start we have undertaken several activities. We are fully convinced that table tennis is a perfect way towards better health; the fact that everybody can play makes it even better. Table tennis is also very inclusive in the sense that it is one of the less expensive sports you can exercise. We also believe that it can work as a bridge into society for people from other cultures, such as asylum seekers. An example of activities completed has been the organisation of lunch training sessions where all the 8,000 employees in the municipality of Halmstad were invited.” Thomas Buza
Initiative has been shown, none more so than with the introduction of a notable guest from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Another event was when the puzzle master of The New York Times and table tennis fanatic, Will Shortz, visited the Halmstad University to deliver a very entertaining speech about the combination of table tennis and crosswords and its effect on the human brain.” Thomas Buza
Now the next step is ready to be launched, the Ping Pong Power Table Tennis Programme; it is a vision to promote table tennis to the broader public.
“The idea is to place table tennis tables in schools, asylum locations, kindergartens, recreation centres, public places and so forth. We will start with 75 tables initially. The tables will be distributed based on a selection process. Also, the same initiative will be applied to the tables donated by Double Happiness, the supplier for the 2018 World Team Championships. We just want to speed up the process and make our sport available to as many people as possible.” Thomas Buza
In order to meet the goal assistance was needed; Sebastian Rangs, Sales & Marketing Manager for Butterfly in Europe, immediately agreed to back the initiative.
“It feels great to be part of Ping Pong Power in both social and promotional aspects. The fact that the Halmstad team is not only willing to promote the event within the established table tennis community but much more: to reach a broad market, increase the interest and improve the image of table tennis as a cool and healthy sport; that strongly motivated us to join in this co-operation. Being not only equipment supplier of many national team players such as Matilda Ekholm, Kristian Karlsson, Anton Källberg and Jon Persson but also the official ball supplier of WTTC 2018, we are sure to combine our common marketing efforts for creating a great atmosphere prior to and during the Championships.” Sebastian Rangs
First to benefit has been the Vallås school in Halmstad, Ingrid Andersson being the Principal; an elementary school of approximately 650 students, it is the biggest such school in the municipality of Halmstad.
Now ten new Butterfly tables are already waiting for the students; in the near future Ping Pong Power will start up weekly training sessions in close co-operation with the local Halmstad Table Tennis Club.
“This is an absolutely fantastic opportunity that has been given to us and I predict that the interest for participating in the sessions will be very high. As well as having organised sessions we also plan to place a few tables in the public recreational areas for the students to play during their breaks. The sedentary lifestyle is actually a growing problem here in Sweden, not just among adults. Our hope is that this could be a way towards more active and healthier youngsters here at our school and who knows? Maybe there will be another Jörgen Persson when the sessions start. He actually was a student here at our school.” Ingrid Andersson
In addition, one of the Swedish Migration Agency´s for asylum-seekers has received support; an organisation which may be able to offer help for the Championships.
“Approximately 400 volunteers will be working during WTTC2018 and one of the foundations that´s been with us from the very beginning is that we want to greet all our visitors in their native language. We also believe that there´s a lot of competence at these hostels and this could hopefully create a real win-win situation for everyone.” Thomas Buza and Peter Johansson
Support will no doubt accrue as the humanitarian element is addressed. I suspect there will be no shortage of volunteers and it will be a tournament to remember, not just for the players; also for those who made the event possible in whatever capacity, the unheralded champions.