Welcome to the Club International de Tennis – A sports and culture “hub” right at the centre of international Geneva Interview with Mr. Ahmed Laouyane, President of the CIT

It is not a question about “boosting but rather to come up with the facts. At the recent UN Games held in Malaga (Spain) the Geneva UN tennis team came first. Most of the players of the UN team and the teams from other Geneva-based organizations are nevertheless all members of the International Tennis Club (CIT). Claiming that the CIT (the “Inter” as they call it) is a “special” club. Being of the curious sort we wanted to know what is it that makes the CIT so special, so we went to meet Mr. Ahmed Laouyane, a former Director at ITU and now the President of the Club. He took of his time to show us around and to give us answers to all our numerous questions. So now we will leave the floor to Mr. Laouyane…
Q: So what is so special about the International Tennis Club?
The International Tennis Club is one of the oldest tennis clubs in Geneva, and was established by staff members of the League of Nations and the ILO. In 1930, the philanthropist and declared internationalist John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased the “Campagne Rigot” property. The Club was first located there. Rockefeller when buying the land declared that purpose was that it should be used for scientific, cultural and sports activities and should preserved as a « surrounding area » for the League of Nations, free from speculation. In other words he wanted to ensure that the nature of the park and the facilities could not be changed. In 1942 the property was donated to the University of Geneva, under the specific condition that the original purpose be maintained, including the preservation of the tennis club (this condition was specifically mentioned in the deed).
In addition, the Club has always been closely affiliated with the institutions of international Geneva, and particularly the United Nations. After the Second World War, the UN, as “successor” of the League of Nations took upon itself the role of “trustee” for the Club. It inherited, so to say, the “droit de disposition” over the Campagne Rigot.
However, when in 2001 the UN decided “not to object” to the construction of the Ecole Sismondi on the land occupied by the Club, their acquiescence was a clear violation of the conditions established by J.D. Rockefeller Jr. The Club was then forced to relocate, and then it moved to its present address in Pregny. It only did so because of an agreement between the UN and the Etat de Genève, under the auspices of the Swiss Confederation, which guaranteed that “a durable solution” had been found to preserve the Club. Thus, it was as a recognition of this “special relationship” with international Geneva that the Geneva authorities voted to invest 3 million francs of public funds and the UN put a plot of land in Pregny at the disposal of the Club. This made possible the transfer of the club to its present premises.
Finally, the Club is also “special” because for almost 80 years, since the early years of international Geneva it has promoted not only the values of internationalism, but also a perfect symbiosis, through the promotion of sport and cultural values and mutual respect, between the Geneva and Swiss community and the international civil servants and the diplomats based in Geneva.
What can the CIT offer to the international community and how can one become a member?
Under the new committee that took over the management of the Club in April this year, the Club is developing into a unique multi-sports arena. On the one hand, it has 6 fantastic clay courts, two of them permanently covered.
In June, earlier this year, we signed an agreement with Cesar Bonequi to ensure the tennis teaching activities and the development of the tennis school. Cesar will work with Alexis Duborgel on the development of junior players, children clinics (including a special agreement with the International School) and other teaching programs throughout the summer and into the coming school year.
We also offer other skills development activities, such as lectures and workshops, group lessons for players of all ages and organize formal and informal tennis competitions. Given the work schedules of staff at international organizations, other than the regular membership conditions, we have created a special “Night Owl” fee allowing unrestricted play from 6pm onwards on week-days for CHF 200 throughout the whole summer season. A “blind date round-robin doubles tournament” takes place every Thursday evening and is open to members and non-members. Moreover, an agreement has been reached with the UN Golf Club to offer introductory golf activities at the CIT and to organize a practice area for seasoned golfers. On June 26th, we celebrated the 79th anniversary of the Club and on 18 September we will host an Open Day for Geneva-based diplomats and their families that will include tennis and golf activities, as well as a special presentation about “How to Use the Art and Science of Tennis in International Negotiations”.
Last but not least, the CIT has its “Tie Break” restaurant with a magnificent terrace facing the courts and a menu with Mexican, Portuguese and other international dishes. So just stop by the Club and check it out for yourself…and do not forget your tennis shoes. As we say in French…Soyez les bienvenus!!!
Katya Pinchevskaya