A Lifetime Contribution, Ulf Lönnqvist remembered

A former member of the ITTF Nominations Committee, the President of the Swedish Table Tennis Association for 23 years, Ulf Lönnqvist passed away on Friday 24th June, just two days before his 86th birthday.

He was born on Friday 26th June 1936.

Present at the funeral was Petra Sörling, elected President of the Swedish Table Tennis Association in 2013, before just under one year ago becoming President of the International Table Tennis Federation, she very much regards Ulf Lönnqvist as the supreme example.

“When I was elected to the Swedish Table Tennis Association’s Executive Board in 2003 this moment seemed so far away. Now it’s here and I can’t believe that time has passed so quickly. All the travels, meetings and debates but through his encouragement and guidance I feel I’m ready for future challenges. Role models play such an important part in shaping and guiding. Especially role models like you Ulf. Thank you for caring so much and all your contribution to our beloved sport, table tennis, both in Sweden and ITTF. Ulf was a true friend from 2003 and onward. To the family I offer my sincerest condolences.” Petra Sörling

Born in Malmö, a working class background, Ulf Lönnqvist studied Economics and Political Science at Lund University, where he was elected President of the Student Union.

Political Career

Following graduation he worked as a civil servant in Stockholm, the Secretary in the Department of Agriculture. He made quick progress; in the late 1960s he became an advisor in the Ministry of Sports and Secretary for the newly established Commission to research the organisation of sport in the country.

The outcome was the establishment of the Swedish Sports Confederation, which still exists today; in particular for Ulf Lönnqvist, it was the start of a career in sport.

In 1982 he became a junior minister in the Swedish government and Member of Parliament before in 1985 being appointed Secretary of State; one year later the Minister of Sport. Following his party’s loss at the 1991 election, he left government office, before in 1992 finally departing politics, accepting a governor’s role in the south of Sweden.

Swedish Table Tennis Association

A background in the political world, thus for positions of office within the Swedish Table Tennis Association, he was the ideal choice.

He was elected to the Executive Committee in the mid-1970s, being very much earmarked as a future President, a position he assumed in 1979 and held until 2002.

In the immediate ensuing years, he attended all Executive Committee meetings for another 12 years; overall chairing the General Assembly for an incredible 45 years!

Notably, during these years he formed a close bond with Lollo Hammarlund, elected President of the International Table Tennis Federation in 1995 at the Biennial General Meeting in Tianjn. Both shared the same view “what can be done to be the best in the world”; the history books now record they succeeded.

Aiming for success at the very highest levels, his interest in grass roots sport never diminished. He had a passion for football, commencing when 20 years old and for the next 50 years he organised a local football team and every year a two week junior camp for girls and boys.

Far Seeing

Additionally, he was far seeing, the effects of which can be witnessed today. He believed that it was important for Sweden to be represented on the ITTF Executive Committee, most significantly he was clear it should be a woman, one candidate stood out, step forward Petra Sörling.

The election of Petra Sörling to the office of President of the International Table Tennis Federation in November 2021, gave Ulf Lönnqvist great satisfaction; just sad he did not live to witness the progress that is currently being witnessed.

An example to all, condolences to family and friends, Ulf Lönnqvist rest in peace.