Chess Olympiad Opening Ceremony Highlights: PM Modi declared tournament open, Pakistan withdraws over torch relay in Kashmir

Follow updates and commentary from the inaugural ceremony of the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister  MK Stalin attending the opening ceremony of the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin attending the opening ceremony of the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai | Photo Credit: Screenshot/ TNDIPR

Follow updates and commentary from the inaugural ceremony of the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Thursday.

Welcome to the coverage of the inauguration and opening ceremony of the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai. This is Lavanya Lakshminarayanan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Good evening, Chennai. Vanakkam. Namaste. I welcome you all to the 44th Chess Olympiad in India. The most prestigious event has come to India - the home of chess. This tournament has come at a special time in India’s history. We mark 75 years of freedom from colonial powers. It is an honour to have you here at such an important time for our country. I would like to applaud the organisers of this tournament. In a very short period of time, they have made outstanding arrangements. We in India believe in Athithi Devo Bhava - our guests are akin to God.

The 44th Chess Olympiad has been a tournament of many firsts. This is the first time the Olympiad is being held in the place of origin of chess in India. It is coming to Asia for the first time in three decades. It has the highest number of countries, highest number of teams participating and highest number of entries in the women’s section. The first-ever torch relay started this time and all this will prove to be memories forever. The torch relay has travelled over 27,000km seeking to motivate youngsters to take up chess. It is a proud moment for us that the torch relay for the Olympiad will always start in India. I thank FIDE for this gesture.

I hope you all get the opportunity to discover Chennai, Mahabalipuram and TN. Sports is beautiful because it has the inherent power to unite.

In sports, there are no losers. There are winners and there are future winners. I wish all the teams and players gathered here all the best for the Olympiad. I hope you form new memories of India and treasure them for times to come. India will always welcome you with open arms. I now declare the 44th Chess Olympiad open. May the games begin.

Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin: Today is a day of great pride for us. International Olympiad has never happened in India before. Hosting the Olympiad is a big honour for us, we are delighted that Tamil Nadu has been given this honour. Our honourable PM has come himself to inaugurate this historic event for he knows this is a proud moment for the country. I welcome him both as the Chief Minister and in my personal capacity. Honourable PM, we know you’re fond of chess. During your tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat, you conducted a carnival of chess, where more than 20,000 people participated. When the Bhutan royal family came to visit, you presented them a chess set. It is apt that such a supporter of the game has come to inaugurate this event. I intended to welcome you in person, but because I tested positive for COVID-19, I couldn’t do so myself. The Prime Minister got in touch with me to enquire about my health. He told me to rest easy, and assured me of his attendance for this event. Your presence has enhanced the magnitude of this function and I thank you for making it. I convey my heartfelt thanks to Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur for providing all help and support to conduct this event.

The ceremonial cauldron has been lit by D Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa and Vijayalakshmi

Anurag Thakur, I&B and Sports Minister: India is the land where chess originated and as sports minister, it gives me immense pride to be here with India hosting the Chess Olympiad.

Arkady Dvorkovich, FIDE president addresses the gathering: We enjoyed the cultural performance put up for us. Thank you for bringing us back to the real chess. It is a risk and honour to host the Olympiad, we thank India and Tamil Nadu for taking it on and hosting us. The Olympiad is the biggest event in chess. We are overwhelmed and touched by the love and thankful for the warmth shown.

PAKISTAN PULLS OUT OF OLYMPIAD OVER KASHMIR TORCH RELAY
Pakistan have withdrawn from the world’s biggest international chess tournament in protest at hosts India holding a torch relay for the event through disputed Kashmir, officials said Thursday.
The 44th Chess Olympiad will see over 1,700 players from 188 nations compete in Chennai from now until August 10.
The last two competitions were played virtually because of the pandemic.
Kashmir has weathered decades of violence and upheaval since it was partitioned between India and Pakistan when both countries became independent in 1947.
The neighbours both claim it in full and have fought two of their three wars over control of the territory.
“By passing the torch relay through Indian-administered Kashmir... India has committed a travesty that the international community cannot accept under any circumstances,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
It said the matter would also be raised with the International Chess Federation and condemned the “mischievous attempt to mix politics with sports”.
A spokesman for India’s foreign ministry called the decision “surprising” and in turn accused Pakistan of politicising the event.
“I was told the team was already here,” Arindam Bagchi told AFP.

Up next, Dhee performs the breakout indie song Enjoy Enjaami, a song which was written (and originally co-sung) by Arivu. The song traces the life of Arivu’s grandmother, who was a plantation worker and the caste and economic politics she lived through with folk influences.

The inaugural ceremony begins with a showcase of Tamil Nadu’s historical, economical and political history. Set to a narration done by veteran actor Kamal Hassan, the performance has been put together by Shiamak Davar’s dance troupe. This piece was conceptualised by Vignesh Sivan.

6:40pm: Cultural performances
6:15pm - The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, arrives. The national anthem and the tamizh thai vazhthu is rendered. The latter, which is the state anthem, was written by Manonmaniam Sundaram Pillai and composed by M. S. Viswanathan.
As the gathering at the Nehru stadium waits for Prime Minister Modi to arrive, sand artist Sarvam Patel has been enthralling the gathering with impressions from Tamil Nadu’s cultural heritage.
Actors Udhayanidhi Stalin, Rajinikanth and film director Aishwarya Rajinikanth at the opening ceremony.

Actors Udhayanidhi Stalin, Rajinikanth and film director Aishwarya Rajinikanth at the opening ceremony.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has touched down in Chennai and will reach the venue at 6 pm.

The teams and their contingents now begin to make their way through the arena for the opening ceremony march.

The Olympiad’s official title song ‘Welcome to Namma Ooru (Our City) Chennai’ composed by AR Rahman is played at the venue.

We are just minutes away from the start of the opening ceremony. PM Modi is likely to reach the venue by 6 pm.

The Olympiad this year will see the highest number of countries participating. Nearly 350 teams in the Open and women’s sections from 187 countries will be in contention. Of these, 188 teams are in the Open section and 162 in the women’s.

The Tamil Nadu government had set aside INR 92 CR for the organisation of the Olympiad in Mahabalipuram and its promotion. A mascot fashioned on the knight, named Thambi, has become quite the fan favourite.

Where to watch the opening ceremony?

Doordarshan will broadcast the opening ceremony from Chennai live. The festivities can also be followed on the YouTube channels of FIDE and Chessbase India.

Where will the Olympiad be held?

The Olympiad will be held at the Four Points by Sheraton Mahabalipuram Resort and Convention Centre, located along the East Coast Road.

OLYMPIAD DETAILS
The FIDE Chess Olympiad will be held from July 28 to August 10 in Mahabalipuram. Follow live coverage, results and analysis on Sportstar.  
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