Male,the capital and main island of Maldives, is one square kilometer with the highest point one meter above sea level and over 100,000 inhabitants. On the morning of the tsunami, ITTF Course Conductor, Arif Khan of Pakistan, conducting a three month Olympic Solidarity Course in Maldives, woke at 6.00am with his bed and the walls of his room shaking badly.
Water in the streets was about half a meter deep with both electricity and water cut.
Arif Khan with school children in Fuamulah atoll-Maldives
Later he saw boats washed up on the streets of Male, destroyed houses and restaurants and nearly half a meter of water in the sports complex. Later still, he assisted and provided support as people and bodies from the worst hit atolls began to arrive in Male.
The Pakistan Navy, assisting in the aftermath of the tsunami, offered to take Arif home. The ITTF advised that they would support any decision and that his safety was the most important concern.
After discussions with the Maldives TTA President, Visam Ali, it was decided the best way forward was to have only two days break and continue with the course as planned. This was certainly a brave decision as the course plan included 3 x 10 days on 3 different atolls developing table tennis. The atolls concerned were not affected by the tsunami but there was evidence all around of the tragedy and there was the ever present danger of a repeat of that tragic day.
Several weeks later, Arif has now completed courses in Fuamulah and Addu atolls and will leave soon for his final course in Ba atoll.
The courses have shown once again of the great impact sport can have in overcoming tragedy. 23 coaches and 150 school children who participated in the courses in Fuamulah were all very sad to see their new friend and coach, Arif Khan, leave their atoll, having generated a great deal of goodwill, interest and motivation in this time of fear and sadness.
Thank you Arif for your bravery and commitment in difficult times.
Arif Khan[PAK] is conducting the Olympic Solidarity Course "Developing a National Coaching Structure" in Maldives, from 1 December,2004 to 25 February,2005. He has continued working during all but the first 2 days after the tsunami.
The ITTF has set up a Tsunami Fund to assist affected countries with "rebuilding" of table tennis through courses and equipment assistance. Several manufacturers have also donated equipment including Stag, Butterfly, Double Happiness and Juic. FIT has also collectively donated US$10,000.
The ITTF also plans to have a "Tsunami Assistance Collection" area at the Shanghai World Championships where the table tennis family can donate new and used equipment for later distribution to Tsunami Affected Countries.