It gives me great pleasure and honour on behalf of the government and the people of KwaZulu-Natal to be addressing this opening of the 2023 International Table Tennis Federation Championship Finals being held in the great coastal city of Durban.
I was here this morning with Madam Petra Sorling President of the ITTF and Mr. Yusuf Carrim President of SATTB, to watch the first ball being served.
I watched with the deepest sense of appreciation, the indomitability of the City of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal welcoming over 600 athletes to this prestigious game of table tennis and being the epicentre of the global attention, with 224-member associations affiliated to the International Table Tennis Federation. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Although our boy Dean Levy, who was on table one this morning lost, Africa had already won. I want to say to Dean, young man you represented us well.
We are the country and continent of champions. South Africa may be ranked 93rd in the Table Tennis nations, but we are the champions in our own right.
Our winning started on 28 September 2020 when South Africa was awarded the rights to host the finals, we became only the second African country to host this prestigious event since Egypt 84 years ago. We have been hard at work preparing for this day. Yes, together we have done it for the peoples of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Africa and the World.
As a Province we started winning in the 1940s to 1970s when we dominated Table Tennis in the non-racial field, which was an era under apartheid, a very turbulent and painful time in our journey towards liberation.
Sport was very central not only to numb the pain that was inflicted by the brutal regime of the time to most of our people, but as an instrument of social cohesion.
It was the great former South African statesman Nelson Mandela who said: “Sport has the power to change the world,the power to inspire…the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination”.
We congratulate the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), South African Table Tennis Board (SATTB), the National and Provincial Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, eThekwini Municipality, SASCOC and the KwaZulu-Natal Sport Confederation and everyone involved, in putting together a sterling tournament and a wonderful build up.
Our undertaking as the province is clear during this Africa Month of May, it is to be the best host on Africa’s behalf. Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre will be the theatre of the ITTF World Table Tennis Championship Finals for the next eight days of scintillating table tennis.
We are ready to serve the authentic African hospitality not only to the 600 athletes in action across the five events, but to the more than 100 million viewers across the world who will be part of this experience.
Our vast experience in hosting global events such as the launch of the African Union, FIFA World Cup preliminary draw and Finals, the Comrades Marathon will give you a sporting experience of a lifetime.
Let me state that as we reposition KwaZulu-Natal to become a Smart Province, we are equally transposing the Province to become the sporting mecca of the world and we will continue to attract more global events of this nature in the future.
When the competition ends on the 28 May, our promise is that through the three-year Social Cohesion Legacy Programme, local communities in townships and rural areas will benefit from this tournament.
This will be through training, coaching, infrastructure and other support being deployed to unearth the next world-class player from our province.
We want to extend the footprint of the game to focus on schools, townships and our rural areas. We want to be the centre of Table Tennis technical training hub for players, referees and umpires.
We are certain that our youth in the rural areas and townships will find the sport exciting and will develop interest in it. In that way Table Tennis will grow once again in the Province and will be one of the instruments that can all use to fight social ills across the world.
With easily over 100 million viewers watching, for the next eight days the eyes of the world will be glued on our province showcasing our best.
Welcome to the province where Tata Nelson Mandela spent his last day, delivered his last speech before being arrested and sent to prison for 27 years, where King Shaka built the Zulu nation into a formidable fighting force that is revered globally.
I wish Team South Africa, team Africa and all athletes all the best. Our nation will be inspired by the exemplary achievements of these heroes and heroines who will be in action here over the next week.
We extend our congratulations to the next hosting city of Busan, South Korea and wish the Local Organising Committee all the success as hosts in 2024.
Sport cuts across all divides and boundaries, uniting the world like no other sector can do. Enjoy all the drives, counter drives, backhands and more. Let us together smash all the records and host the most successful event ever.
As I close, I want to sound a stern warning to the leading teams likes China, Korea, Japan, Germany and others, watch the space. KwaZulu-Natal table tennis will re-emerge and will conquered the world.
Go enjoy the warm Indian ocean, the vibrant city night life, go catch a rikshaw bus and experience the beadwork put together by our women, go bungee jumping at the Majestic Moses Mabhida Stadium.
KwaZulu-Natal has it all Believe it.
Siyanamukela, Karibu, Welcome! ENDS.