The thirty-fifth world table tennis championships, which opened in the Democratic People's Republic of (north) Korea on Friday (27 April), have given the country the chance to show its brightest and friendliest face to dozens of foreign journalists.
The thirty-fifth world table tennis championships, which opened in the Democratic People's Republic of (north) Korea on Friday (27 April), have given the country the chance to show its brightest and friendliest face to dozens of foreign journalists. Reports from capital of Pyongyang say visiting reporters have received hints that the authorities may be considering opening up the country more to the West after years of carefully-restricted contacts.
SYNOPSIS: During the week (23-27 April), teams from more than sixty nations have been arriving at Pyongyang airport. The United State side was among the first to arrive. Much of the interest is in the diplomacy surrounding the event rather than the ping pong. This has echoes for the Americans, remembering China signalled its desire for increased contacts with the West by inviting the Americans to visit in 1971.
In Pyongyang, visitors can see many modern buildings built in the early 1970s as part of a massive reconstruction programme. This programme included the venue for the championships, the Pyongyang Indoor Arena, which has twenty thousand seats. The tournament will be in three sections -- first the team championships, then the individual competitions and finally, the individual world titles competition.
Many teams were getting in some last minute practice on Tuesday (24 April), and trying to acclimatise to the humid conditions. Seventy teams are present for the tournament but there are two notable absentees. South Korea is not represented. It was invited by the North to join a union Korean side, but replied it would do so only if the North acknowledges its right to be invited as a separate team. Israel was not invited, but the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has accepted North Korea's argument that the Israelis could pose a security risk.
Leading the strong Hungarian side is the current European men's champion, Gabor Gegerly.
Among the women, England's Jill Hammersley, ranked sixth in the world, is tipped as a possible threat to Asian domination. english male hopes lie with Desmond Douglas, ranked eighth is the world.