'Ping Pong Diplomacy' Returns at ITTF Meeting -- Federation Focus

Also: FIBA tweaks Tokyo 2020 tournament format; professional Baseball5 Tour debuts in Colombia

(ATR) The International Table Tennis Federation will vote to determine the hosts for the 2021 and 2022 Table Tennis World Championships on April 22.

The U.S., which is bidding to host in 2021, and China, which is seeking the 2022 nod, have agreed to support each country’s respective bid, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Around the Rings had been told last week that the presentation of the Houston bid will call attention to 2021 as the 50th anniversary of the "ping pong diplomacy" that opened the door to restoration of ties between the U.S. and China.

Houston is competing against Agadir, Morocco, so no matter the winning bid the event will be held outside Europe and Asia for the first time in 82 years.

Chengdu, China faces challenges from Kitakyushu, Japan and Lisbon, Portugal in hosting the world championships in 2022.

The ITTF’s annual general meeting will take place on the sidelines of the 2019 world championships in Budapest, which runs from April 21 to 28.

FIBA Tweaks Tokyo 2020 Tournament Format

The men’s and women’s basketball champions for Tokyo 2020 will need to do less work to win the gold medal.

FIBA on Tuesday announced a change in format for the basketball program for the next Summer Games. In both tournaments, the 12 teams will now be divided into three groups of four rather two groups of six.

The top two teams in each of the three groups and the two best third-placed teams after the group phase would qualify for the quarterfinals. The other four teams would be out of the competition.

Under the new format, a team will play six games – three in the round robin group phase followed by a quarterfinal, semifinal and gold medal game in the final phase- to top the podium. In previous tournaments eight games were required to win the gold medal, including five group games.

FIBA says the change to fewer group games will bring "additional interest to every game of the tournament".

Professional Baseball5 Tour Debuts in Colombia

The inaugural event of the professional Baseball5 tour begins on Thursday in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is offering $8,000 in total prize money for the Americas Open, which will feature mixed teams with eight-player rosters from six countries including the host Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.

The competition will take place on a temporary venue at the iconic beach of Playa Bocagrande, El Bony, with an all-branded urban Baseball5 court made of polypropylene sports flooring.

"WBSC, as the world governing body, is taking measures to have baseball and softball played everywhere: on the streets and at the beach, in order to connect with younger audiences and drive new generations to both play and follow our game," said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari in a statement.

"The launch of the WBSC Baseball5 Americas Open is major step toward growing the game globally and expanding the reach and appeal of the traditional game of baseball and softball."

Every match, both during the round robin and the medal round, will consist of a three-game series, with each game played over five innings.

Written by Gerard Farek

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