It was 1988, the first Olympics that included table tennis, and the 18-year-old Saive was starting a journey that brought him the No. 1 ranking in singles and the honor of being Belgium's flagbearer in the 1996 and 2004 Olympics.
In London, Saive is the one who will probably be posing for pictures. He'll join Jorgen Persson of Sweden and Zoran Primorac of Croatia as the only three players who have competed in every Olympic table tennis tournament.
"I don't know if I would continue to push my head and body so much without the Olympics for motivation," Saive said in an interview with The Associated Press. "For me it was a miracle to qualify for the first Olympics. The first time is something you remember forever."
Table tennis is a technical sport that makes some concessions for age. Spain's China-born He Zhiwen will be playing this time at 50. But Saive said the increasing speed and fitness levels make it difficult to keep up, and China's rise means a medal is unlikely.
China is expected to sweep the four gold medals in London and has won 20 of 24 in the previous Olympics.
"I was already thinking in Sydney this would be my last one," Saive said. "In Beijing after the closing ceremony I was really sure this was the end. We stay because all three of us still love the game. We still love to be in the arena."
And in the arena, the three have won nearly everything. But the 42-year-old Saive and 46-year-old Persson have extra motivation, they've never won an Olympic medal.
The 43-year-old Primorac has his, taking silver in doubles at the 1988 Olympics. Primorac, on the other hand, has never been ranked No. 1, a distinction both Saive and Persson cherish. He reached No. 2.
"Maybe if I had the medal I would not be playing in my seventh Olympics," Persson told the AP. MORE (AP) PDS PM