Times change, now gender equality
Qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, very much at the forefront of an international calendar disrupted by a pandemic that has blighted the world.
At the forthcoming Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament to be staged in Qatar from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th March, a further five players in each of the men’s singles and women’s singles events plus one mixed doubles partnership will be added to the list.
They will join the players from the continent who last year qualified via men’s and women’s team competitions plus mixed doubles events and the West Asian qualification tournament.
Pertinently, as is the policy in the modern era, it is parity between the genders but when table tennis was first held at an Olympic Games, in 1988 in Seoul, it was somewhat different, as were the events and thus the mode of qualification.
It was agreed with the International Olympic Committee that in the men’s singles there would be 64 players, in the men’s doubles 32 pairs, but in the women’s events the numbers would be less. The singles would comprise 48 players, the doubles 16 pairs.
Both players in a doubles pair had to represent the same National Olympic Committee; thus, a National Olympic Committee with only one singles player was required to introduce a further for the doubles.
In the men's singles, 16 players were selected from the highest places in the world rankings but with not more than two from the same National Olympic Committee. Another 44 places were allocated to continental federations in proportion to the number of member associations - twelve each to Asia and Europe, eight each to Africa and Latin America and two each to North America and Oceania. The remaining four places were reserved as "wild cards".
The same principle was used for the women's singles, with the numbers scaled down appropriately. Meanwhile, as there was no doubles ranking list, all places other than wild cards were filled by continental selection.
Furthermore, in order to have a wide range of countries competing, the numbers of entries from a National Olympic Committee were limited to three players in a singles event, two pairs in a doubles event and not more than four men and four women in the competition as a whole.
Out of necessity, the qualifying procedure had to be carried out in a particular sequence, as the results of one stage could affect the choices available at a later stage.
In the first instance, the International Table Tennis Federation announced the names of the players, who had qualified by ranking, then continental federations made their singles selections and after that the allocation of the singles wild cards was decided.
Next, continents next selected their doubles pairs; the process was completed by the International Table Tennis Federation allocating the doubles wild cards.
The Seoul University Gymnasium was ready for action.
Editor: Ian Marshall