World Table Tennis (WTT) has accused the Hong Kong Table Tennis Association (HKTTA) of "using COVID as an excuse" for its decision not to compete in two upcoming events in Doha.
In a joint statement, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and WTT, its commercial arm, expressed "disappointment" at Hong Kong’s withdrawal from next month’s WTT Middle East hub over player safety concerns.
A WTT Contender event is scheduled to be held from March 3 to 6, followed by the WTT Star Contender tournament from March 8 to 13.
Chan Kong-wah, head coach of Hong Kong’s table tennis team, claimed last week the coronavirus countermeasures in place at the Lusail Sports Arena in the Qatari capital did not meet the standards of the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
But WTT insists it has been working together with the Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) and the country’s Government to "establish an enhanced COVID-19 prevention plan" ahead of the back-to-back competitions.
The organisation said the HKTTA had previously "confirmed" it would send its full team to Qatar as part of "an alternative contingency plan being workshopped by WTT".
"WTT is disappointed to hear of the concerns of HKTTA as these have never been discussed directly with ITTF or WTT," the statement read.
"WTT and QTTA together with local government authorities have implemented and communicated repeatedly COVID-19 protocols to all member associations prior to the entry and withdrawal deadlines for the hub, while continuing to work together to establish an enhanced Covid-19 prevention plan that is based on our successful implementation of the ITTF #Restart series in China which had zero COVID-19 cases and where the Hong Kong team participated, and Qatar’s successful hosting of numerous international sporting events such as the Judo Masters, Australian Open Tennis qualifying and now the FIFA Club World Cup during the current pandemic."
WTT said all participants had been kept updated on the COVID-19 regulations which include testing and quarantine upon arrival.
A bio-secure bubble is also set to be put in place with competitors expected to remain in the venue or in an exclusive hotel.
"HKTTA showed some interest in participating in the hub and liaised directly with WTT," the statement added.
"The HKTTA also confirmed to send their full team to Qatar as part of an alternative contingency plan being workshopped by WTT.
"Ultimately HKTTA chose not to enter their team and we are disappointed they are using COVID as an excuse for their decision to not participate.
"We will be reaching out to HKTTA and the HK Sports Institute to understand their concerns and see if they have any advice that can make our Covid-19 measures even better."
A WTT event took place in Macau last November, acting as a promotional showcase for the new series before its official launch in 2021.
China is set to house the second hub before a third in Europe.
When commenting on Hong Kong's decision not to send a team to Qatar, Chan said he was hoping to send his players to an event in China which he expects to be held in April.