By GEORGE GROSS -- Calgary Sun
Canadians are en route to a global takeover of amateur sports.
Perhaps not in the pool, on the track or on the ski slopes, but certainly
in the boardrooms of International Sports Federations.
At the recent meetings of GAISF -- General Association of International
Sports Federations -- in Osaka, Japan, the assembled heads of sports
federations welcomed Adham Sharara of Ottawa as the new president of the
International Table Tennis Federation. He was elected prexy of the world
ping-pong body at the 1999 world championships in Eindhoven, Holland, in
Adham Sharara is the fourth Canadian head of an international sports
federation, placing Canada only behind Italy as far as as the number of
international sports bosses is concerned. The Italians lead the parade with
six international federation presidents.
Veteran Canadians occupying the lofty positions ahead of Sharara are
Toronto's Paul Henderson, who's the president of the International Yacht
Racing Union. In fact, at Osaka, he could have had enough votes to be elected
vice-president of GAISF, but it wasn't an election year.
Another Canadian, perhaps not as well known as Henderson, is Vancouver's
Les McDonald, who's head of the International Triathlon Union, a group that
has done a lot to promote the sport around the globe.
The third veteran president is Bob Storey of Ottawa, president of the
International Bobsleigh and Toboggan Federation, who's well respected on the
international amateur scene.
Which brings us to Sharara, who succeeds Japan's most popular Ichiro
Ogimura, a former world champion and successful Tokyo businessman, as head of
"Adham Sharara is a pretty interesting fellow," said Violet Le Blanc,
marketing secretary of the International Table Tennis Federation."
Unfortunately, this week he is out of the country and cannot be reached."
With a backup such as Ms. Le Blanc, one can find out quite a bit about the
mysterious Mr. Sharara. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, 47 years ago and
emigrated to Canada as a youngster to become an electrical engineer.
Table tennis was his first love. He started playing at age 10 in 1963 and
is still chasing celluloid balls across a table tennis table.
In 1972 he became a member of Canada's national team and represented his
adopted country for four years before embarking on an executive career as
provincial technical director in Quebec, national technical director, national
coach and director general of the Canadian Table Tennis Association. He
received lots of encouragement from Toronto's Marg Walden, the grand lady of
Canadian table tennis
Adham married Mariann Domonkos, a 10-time Canadian women's singles
champion, in 1982 and the two of them have devoted their careers to the
popularization of the sport in Canada.
Sharara has set himself goals for the next three years. He tells everyone
that in the past the ITTF has usually operated on necessity and tradition.
However, in order to compete with other sports at the international level and
to attract top sponsors, Sharara envisions that the time has arrived to put in
place long range plans.
"The ITTF will adopt a general set of priorities to guide its activities
over the Olympic quadrennial," said Sharara. "In general, any ITTF program,
plan or activity must satisfy at least two (efficiency and effectiveness)
established general priorities with 'planning' as an essential pre-requisite."
The key goals, though, are to increase the popularity of the game in Canada
and the participation of young people in the sport. If Richard Nixon succeeded
with ping pong diplomacy in China, there's no reason why Sharara cannot
succeed with his plan in Canada.