In a fitting tribute to the cerebral sport that India gave to the world, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the first-ever Chess Olympiad Torch Relay to trigger off the countdown to the sport's biggest event scheduled at Mahabalipuram from July 28.
In a symbolic gesture following a gala ceremony watched by over 7000 people at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here, the Prime Minister faced country's top-ranked woman player Koneru Humpy over a chessboard and made a ceremonial move.
Later, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) President Arkady Dvorkovich handed over the torch to Mr Modi who in turn passed it to five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand. The country's first Grandmaster received the torch and jogged a few yards for the cheering spectators on his way out of the arena.
However, given the magnanimity of the occasion, it was indeed shocking to find Anand not seated on the podium.
Without a doubt, never before a chess-related event in the country attracted so many eyeballs as it did on Sunday. From the Naval band to the performances that reinforced a truly nationalistic feel and exceeded the expectations of the audience.
Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister noted, “Today the first torch relay for Chess Olympiad is starting from India. We are proud that a sport, starting from its birthplace and leaving its mark all over the world, has become a passion for many countries.”
Earlier, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur took pride in stating that the FIDE had agreed to have the commencement of the Chess Olympiad Torch Relay from India for every subsequent edition of this mega event.
Due to the paucity of time, the torch relay will pass through 75 Indian cities before culminating at Chennai on July 27.
World champion and top ranked Magnus Carlsen will lead the creamy layer of the players from around 189 countries. India, permitted to field two teams for being the host, appears a serious medal contender in both sections.
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