25 September 2018

Olympiad’s Reverberating Start

Eteri Kublashvili reports about the Opening Ceremony

The year’s main team tournament has kicked off in Batumi on September 23, Sunday. National teams arriving in Georgia from various countries and continents are happy to populate social networks with beautiful sights of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara’s modern capital and themselves against background. Some participants have never been here before and find themselves tasting the Georgian hospitality and splendor of the Black Sea for the first time, while others yet compare the modern Batumi with that of 10-15 years ago – this comparison being, of course, in favor of the present time. 

Teams are staying in various hotels that the city is abundant with nowadays, same as casinos, but everything is in close proximity here. Games will be played in the new Sports Palace, which the participants will be shuttled to and from on a daily basis. We are yet to find our way around the Palace. 

At a certain moment, the center of gravity will start shifting between the Sports Palace and the Sheraton Hotel, the eighth tallest skyscraper in Georgia, which has become one of the symbols of the modern-day Batumi. Sheraton will host the FIDE Congress, its main event being the presidential elections. 

The Russian teams have arrived in Batumi directly from Sochi, where the final training session was organized for the upcoming Tournament of Nations. Weather conditions in the Krasnodar Krai are much closer to the local ones (although, in my opinion, Batumi is by far ahead of Sochi in terms of air humidity), and we hope that acclimatization will be as smooth as possible for the trainees of Andrey Filatov and Sergei Rublevsky.

However, a nightclub below Hilton – the hotel accommodating our team – had the disco rattling all through the Saturday night. Senior coach of the Russian men's team, president of the Russian Chess Federation Andrey Filatov, has sent a letter to the organizers and administration of FIDE to describe a situation unacceptable for a sports event of that scale and ask to take appropriate action. Let me add that this is not a standalone case: the Wyndham Hotel, where some other teams and representatives of the Russian Chess Federation stay, has enjoyed a no less turbulent night.

Before the ceremony, part of the Russian team met the FIDE presidential candidate Arkady Dvorkovich. Over a friendly dinner of Georgian cuisine the FIDE presidential candidate wished players and coaches good luck at the Olympiad.

The opening ceremony started at Black Sea Arena at 21.00 p.m. sharp! This punctuality is an extremely rare and very pleasant guest at events of this magnitude.

The ceremony was incredibly beautiful, sparkling, saturated with events and compact at the same time. It opened with a bright and very exotic performance of ballet dancers. It was followed by singers going out onto the giant chessboard, and dancing soldiers replacing them afterwards. 

The competition's highest level was highlighted by arrival and speech given President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili. Addressing the audience with words of greeting and good luck were Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Georgia Mikheil Batiashvili, Chairman of the Government of Autonomous Republic of Adjara Tornike Rizhvadze, and FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos.

The part of official speeches was succeeded by a colorful parade of flags, upon which the main part of the music program took over. The Black Sea Arena stage saw performances by a violinist Georgy Tsagareli, artists of the Sukhishvili - Ramishvili National Ballet, Batumi Chapel, baritone Lado Ataneli, singer Lisa Bagrationi and many other musicians and dancers. The pianists' performance was accompanied by showing pictures of famous Georgian chess players - Nona Gaprindashvili, Maia Chiburdanidze, Nana Alexandria and Nana Ioseliani. 

The program’s highlight was a famous Nino Katamadze giving a heartfelt performance of two songs. 

The musical part was followed by Olympiad's chief arbiter, Takis Nikolopoulos, carrying out a drawing of lots involving Vichy Anand and Nana Dzagnidze. The grandmasters were given huge shells to draw numbers from. Viswanathan pulled out a white piece, meaning the top-rated tournament favorite in the men’s section - the US team - to have a white color in round one on board one. Russia's board one is Black. In the women's section, Nana fished out black for odd boards of odd-numbered teams.

The festive program was wrapped up by Nika Kacharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz band singing their version of My Way, starting in a traditional style of Frank Sinatra and finishing in a certain semblance to Sid Vicious. Massive fireworks crowned the show. 

Unfortunately, late start of the ceremony and lengthy road to Arena scared off some participants, who rather opted for more sleep and rest before an important start, missing the opening ceremony for that reason.

Round one begins September 24, Monday, at 14:00 MSK. The Russian men's team is paired with Uganda, and the women's team with Costa Rica. Stay with us to keep track of our teams’ progress. 

 Pictures by Boris Dolmatovsky and Vladimir Barsky