By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Forty-four players took to the tables to compete in the Aquece Rio table tennis test event that took place over four days (November 18th – 21st) at the Riocentro Pavilion 4 in Barra de Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro. Designed as a dry run before next year’s Olympic Games, the overwhelming majority of players came from Brazil, Chile and Argentina to try out the venue.
Paul Drinkhall was the only player to have come from outside of the continent. On Thursday November 19th he won the men’s singles title. On the same day, Brazilian Gui Lin picked up gold in the women’s singles competition.
The Brazilian squad triumphed in the team events, winning both the men’s and women’s on Saturday.
Although the Olympic table tennis competition will be held in Riocentro Pavilion 3 next year, not 4 where the test event was held, organizers were largely pleased with how the venue worked.
“We tested important elements that could perhaps be imperceptible to people, such as the (air) flow in the venue, the lighting and even the color of the floor. The feedback we have had from the athletes and the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has been positive,” said Gustavo Nascimento, venue management director for Rio 2016.
ITTF president Thomas Weikert, who was present at the competition, said that only two main changes needed to be made before next year’s games: to improve the lighting and the air conditioning.
In a break from the norm and in homage to the Brazilian flag, the floor of the table tennis arena at Rio 2016 will be green, and not the usual red or blue. A similar design has been adopted for the hockey pitches, which were opened on Friday November 20th. The artificial grass is blue with a green border and with white lines reflecting the colors of the host country’s flag.
Seven hundred invited guests watched the warm-up table tennis competition. Some had won tickets at a promotional event at Rio’s train station the previous week, when professional players from the Brazilian team played members of the public as others watched.