|Judit Farago-CEO, ITTF|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 26 March 2012 12:18
Born in 1961, Judit Farago graduated at the Foreign Trade University, achieving a degree in English and in Russian. As a table tennis player Farago won 1 silver and 4 bronze medals at the National Closed Championships.
Farago was elected as Executive Board member of the Hungarian Olympic Committee in 2001 and served 3 Olympic periods in this function (finished it in February 2012). During this period was a Chairwoman of the NOC Women in Sport Committee between 2001 and 2009.
Elected functions in the International Table Tennis Federation: Board of Directors member for 4 years, then elected as first-ever female Executive Vice President in ITTF in 2003.
After the Beijing Olympic Games, Farago changed from elected official to full-time professional staff in the ITTF: in September 2008, she started as the Director of the newly established Competition Department, and was promoted as Executive Director of Competitions in July 2009. Since July 2011, Farago is also serving as Chief Executive Officer, holding both positions for a transition period.
By Marc Sibbons
As the CEO of the ITTF, what would consider the most challenging aspect of your current role? Do you personally operate under any other roles within the Federation?
I have been the CEO of the ITTF since July 2011 so I am fairly new to this position. Before hand, the President also acted as the Federation’s CEO but now the main staff issues are transferred to me. In the mean time, I also operate as the Executive Director for Competition Programmes, which includes the supervision of competition organisation. My biggest challenge in this function is to improve the presentation and enhance the level of our competition, which is the basic service of our National Association.
I split my time between these dual roles which can be stressful, but I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of working in this Federation. In terms of the ITTF, I am happy to announce that we are the second largest International Federation with 215 members, where we are only behind the International Volleyball Federation in this sector. Whilst we acknowledge there is always room for improvement, this is certainly something that we can be very proud of.
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITFF) has announced a £1.6 million prize fund for the 2012 ITTF World Tour. How will this extra incentive help take players to the next level? What other benefits can players expect to receive at this tournament?
In 1996, we first introduced prize money into our sport. Since then, we have made several important changes this year. Based on the request of the title sponsor, the GAC Group, we changed the tournament name to the World Tour instead of Pro Tour. Furthermore, in the first time of the history of the ITTF, we now offer the £1.6m prize fund at the World Tour Grand Final. As a result of this, we now expect an increase in media attention and predict a significantly higher level of spectator/participant interest.
Other than the financial incentive, players can also take huge benefits from the World Tour by building match experience against regular top-level professionals. From this tournament, players can also gain World Ranking points if they prove to be successful and it gives them an opportunity to show of their individual sponsors simultaneously.
How important are the Olympic Games to the growth of the sport, both in sporting terms and business terms – the exposure?
Table tennis is a relatively young sport on the Olympic Games programme. It has only been on the programme since 1988 so it continues to attract history and exposure every time there is a summer Olympics. The impact the Olympics have had on table tennis can only be described as remarkable. Each Games now helps increase the prestige on the sport and spectator/participant statistics are constantly rising with greater coverage.
Interestingly, there are three players at the London Olympics who are first only table tennis players to compete at seven Olympics. These are Zoran Primorac of Croatia, Jörgen Persson of Sweden and Jean-Michel Saive of Belgium. These players have raised the interest level in our sport as they have created history and are key players during table tennis Olympic events in recent times.
With the Olympic Games creeping up on London 2012, how are overall preparations shaping up for associated nations participating In the Table Tennis events?
The Olympic games is special because it is only quadrennial. Of course our focus is now fully on the London Olympic Games where we have prepared our competition calendar for this year accordingly and I can already tell you that in the first two months we have had huge participation interest in any kind of International Table Tennis Competition. Of course players this year are all fighting for a higher World Ranking and qualification for the Olympics this summer as it is destined to be an amazing event. The final qualification period will end in the middle of May, so there is still two months for participants to stake their claim for a place in London this summer.
What impact do you hope table tennis will have on the London 2012 Olympics?
We are looking forward with great excitement to the London Olympics. To go to a country renowned for their passion for sport and the fact that England is one of the founders of the International Table Tennis Federation is very special. The sport was also invented in England, and the first World Championship was held in London in 1926. Furthermore, Our headquarters, which is now in Lausanne, was then based in Hastings for 30 years until 2000, so there is an awful lot of table tennis history that exists in London. This all combines to add to what a wonderful occasion it promises to be for anyone connected to table tennis.
In spite of this big tradition and history, there surprisingly hasn’t been a great deal of table tennis events held in England, especially in London. However, because of the impact of the Olympic Games, there was a Pro Tour Grand Final held in London last November. Also, 3 months after the London Games, The Liebherr Men’s World Cup is due to take place in Liverpool, so I can tell you that England is now firmly back on the table tennis map thanks to the Olympics.
Do you think the table tennis event will be more successful than previous Olympics like Beijing in 2008 for example?
There is no doubt that replicating the success of the Beijing Olympics will be very tough. It is well known that table tennis is one of the fundamental and most successful sports in China, but we are aiming to maintain the same level of TV audiences and stadium capacity as Beijing in London this summer.
The ExCel arena is very similar to the Beijing venue as they both attract around 6,000 spectators so we are very confident this can be achieved. This belief is enhanced as we have recently received news from LOCOG that all tickets all sold out for the event. Make no doubt about it, London is going to be very special. We have raised the bar by making the event look as attractive as possible while we are planning to use the latest high calibre equipment to aid performance.
For example, the table design will be very unique and will be designed specifically for the Olympics whereas the sports flooring will be different this time round than at other ITTF events. But of course the performance is the most significant factor, and I am very confident that all the participants in our event will go one step further than they did in Beijing and record even better statistics this year.