Is 2010 Olympiad headed for Disaster?

The Chess Olympiad is less than one month away and there are continued grumblings about the logistical arrangements. One month ago there was a story about the venue in Khanty-Mansiysk still being under construction. There was also the revelation that the organizers may have chosen a venue unable to accommodate all the attendees. Israel Gelfer, Honorary Vice-President of FIDE visited the complex in July 2010 and found that the readiness was not up to standard. In fact, construction materials were still strewn about. This was after an initial visit in late 2009.

Chessdom carried an interview with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (although undated) that included the following exchange.

Chessdom: Kirsan Nikolayevich, there are less than two months to the start of the World Chess Olympiad 2010. There is information that in Khanty Mansiysk there are not enough places for all guests and some teams are even declined acceptance. A colleague of yours from FIDE, during the match for the World Title in Sofia, in a conversation with me even used the word “catastrophe”. Is the situation really so serious?

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: I am not inclined to put so much drama in the situation and talk about “catastrophe”. But indeed the situation is worrying. The organizers of the Olympiad had promised to build 3 hotels. They built only one. But even this one that is built, a month ago was not functioning. I travel a lot around the world, I have been in Asia, Africa, and South America. The chess players from some of these countries are complaining that as far back as May they have been declined requests for Khanty Mansiysk. They have been told by the organizing committee that there are not enough places in the charters, there is no space in the hotels… Can you imagine a situation where, let’s say, at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi the organizers inform the hokey players from Canada or Sweden, “We are sorry, we cannot host you because you do not have a place where to live.” (complete story)

Of course, there are stories now surfacing about difficulties in securing visas and arranging flights for the trip to Siberia. Several federations have already reported overstepping their budgetary limits and complaints are beginning to mount from various federations. There have been charter flights arranged, but some of the scheduled times have changed… more than once. One small federation has to disburse a total of US$5000 for charter flights! More fees are added with each adjustment in scheduling.

Some federations are already filing papers to be compensated for the fees incurred for ticket changes. There is also a serious question about the accommodations. While the blame is being put squarely on FIDE by some, this goes far beyond a partisan issue. This can be a human disaster with possible legal implications, if not remedied. The organizers appear overwhelmed to handle the torrent of issues that are facing them. Federations are complaining that this is already the most expensive Olympiad they have attempted to attend.

Ilyumzhinov has stated that this Olympiad will have the highest attendance and it is anticipated that 160 federations will trek to the Siberian region. With this being an election Olympiad, it is very important that delegations are able to make the trip. Both campaigns are no doubt making contingency plans to ensure that their constituencies are represented. However, the election is becoming secondary to the safe arrival of all the participants. Let us hope that the organizers will treat these cases with expediency.


  1. I have received a correspondence from Nick Faulks from Bermuda who has detailed the logistical problems for his delegation. In his correspondence with the organizers he has pointed out the exorbitant costs incurred since the charter flights have been changed not once, but twice!

    There is trouble brewing and apparently several more federations have the same problems. More details to follow.

  2. So many problems, but the most pressing appears to be the charter flights, particularly out of Munich. Bermuda is now in the process of changing its flights for the second time, breaking the budgets of both the federation and the players, and I know there are others in the same position. It would be a good start if teams on the Munich flight could make themselves known, since we are more likely to have success in joint negotiations that if they they can pick us off individually.

    FIDE of course have this information, but I expect them to guard it tightly.

    What with visa fees, extra charges for captains’ rooms and charter flights for delegates, this was already the most expensive Olympiad ever for federations and players. We must hope it will justify this by also being the best!

  3. Andrei Kascha from the “RusBusinessNews” interviewed Alexander Gerber, Director of the Center of Assistance to the World Chess Olympics. This was posted on 13th of August.

    * * *

    Alexander Ernstovich, the first question that opens now all the talks about the Chess Olympiad: Will Khanty-Mansiysk be able to accommodate with comfort more than three thousand chess-players, judges, coaches, and reporters? Can you off hand dot all the i’s and say “yes” or “no”?

    In pre-Olympic Khanty-Mansiysk everything is changing for the better with every passing day. For example, yesterday the operating team of the Olympyiskaya Hotel, which will receive about 1,400 chess-players, started commissioning of the rooms. The catering for chess-players has been arranged. At the moment, we are signing contracts for purchasing and delivery of food products. In the middle of the next week, the final meeting chaired by Yugra Governor Natalia Komarova will take place; the agenda includes the report about the readiness condition of Olympyiskaya. We are planning to sign the Commissioning Act of the hotel serviceability on August 25.

    What does the hotel look like?

    The Olympyiskaya Hotel is a 13-story building for 846 rooms. The first and the second levels accommodate a restaurant, fitness-club, service and office facilities. Olympyiskaya offers both single suites and standard rooms for 2-3 people.

    Does it mean that chess celebrities like Veselin Topalov, Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik will be able to stay there with comfort?

    We have not received any enquiries from their representatives concerning the quality of the required hotel rooms. However, we are ready to offer them comfortable accommodations that fit their stellar status.

    Where are chess-players going to stay, if they fail to book a room in the Olympyiskaya Hotel?

    Ten more city hotels are ready to accommodate participants of the Olympiad. On August 10, I had a meeting with their representatives. All the hotels are ready to offer their services to chess-players anytime.

    What are the catering arrangements for chess-players who will come from different parts of the world?

    The World Chess Federation (FIDE) did not make any requests. However, we, offering hospitality, require that the hotels should offer the cuisine traditional for those countries that are represented by chess-players – the future guests of these hotels. The hotel menu has been scheduled in every detail. The catering will be provided as buffet service.

    Has the transportation schedule been prepared?

    Certainly. Chess-players will use charter flights to come to Khanty-Mansiysk from Milan, Prague, Moscow and Dubai. The main airport of Yugra is completely prepared to receive airplanes. In Khanty-Mansiysk, chess-players will be offered comfortable shuttle-buses. The trip between any hotel and the Center of Tennis Sport Development where the Olympiad will be held will take 10-15 minutes.

    By the way, why was the Center of Tennis Sport Development selected for the Olympics, but not the Yugra-Classic Concert and Theater Center that already hosted World Chess Cup championships?

    The main problem is that Yugra-Classic lacks the required space. Only 200-250 chess-players took part in the World Cup, whereas the Olympics will attract ten times as many. The Center of Tennis Sport Development has enough space to accommodate them. All the chess-players will be able to start the game concurrently. By the way, at the previous Olympics in Dresden, the game hall was smaller, but it still was enough to accommodate everybody.

    Will it be possible for the audience and reporters to watch the tournaments?

    The hall stands have 3,500 seats. The second level of the building is equipped with screens for broadcasting the most interesting tournament games. There are also well-equipped rooms for sportscasters. As for reporters, about 30 journalists have been accredited to the Olympics so far. They will have their own office. We do not expect that many mass media representatives will come to Khanty-Mansiysk. Chess is the game that can easily be analyzed via the Internet.

    The virtual network is likely to become the key assistant in coverage of the Olympiad?

    Definitely. All the chess tables will be equipped with electronics. It will make it possible to broadcast the games in the Internet in the real-time mode.

    Chess enthusiasts will equally be interested in the FIDE Congress that will also take place during the Olympic days. What can chess org-people expect in terms of work conditions?

    The Congress will be held in the Chess Academy. This complex has no rivals in Russia. The total floor space of the Academy is 2,845 square meters. Its opening is scheduled for August 25, and at the end of September, there will be a grand ceremony, at which the new FIDE president will be elected and the capital of the Chess Olympics – 2014 will be named.

    What are the plans for leisure time of chess-players? For example, will they have an opportunity to keep fit?

    There will be three city swimming-pools at their disposal. In addition, each hotel has gyms and saunas. Therefore, those who love exercise will not be short of “iron”.

    The guests of the regional capital will perceive the image of the city essentially during their communication with Olympiad volunteers. What is the Organization Committee doing in terms of the Olympic assistance team?

    We need about 300 volunteers. At present we have about 200 people who are willing to help us. They know foreign languages and they attended special training courses. By the way, the equal attention is given to service personnel of the hotels. They also go through special training.

    Khanty-Mansiysk is not a very large, but a comfortable city; visitors are always welcomed there. Yet, what additional safety precautions will be taken during the Chess Olympics days?

    Prior to the Olympiad, the police take some preventive measures – trucks coming to the city are checked, the registration of private guns the Khanty-Mansiysk residents have is verified. During the tournament, the security and comfort of chess-players will be provided by about 800 people. Certainly, it is quite different from the security typical of international biathlon competitions. There, multi-thousand audiences of fans must be watched. The Olympics will generate less troubles. Chess-players and their fans are well-balanced people.


  4. Everything looks fine, doesn’t it? So when I ask for minimal information about the “upgrade” for which they are demanding 1120 euros, why are they unable to reply?

  5. It would be nice to know how many teams from the Americas are even going. My impression is, apart from the big names, not too many, but only FIDE know and they’re not telling.

  6. Here are the updated changes for all the charter flights. Hopefully federations were aware of the changes, but many delegations will no doubt have to pay dearly to change their itineraries. This could mean some federations will not be able to afford the fares. Bermuda, Canada, Poland and the Faroe Islands have already paid additional fees for this. Susan Polgar also told me she had to change her itinerary.


  7. Dear Shabazz.
    It is wonderfull taking a note on your blog. I hope you still remember me. I`m from Angola. We recieved Karpov´s delegation and it was very pleasant.
    When will you be interested to come to Angola? It would be nice and a good story.

    Let the Africans vote KARPOV the only choice.

  8. Oi Mr. Pinto,

    I would love to come to Angola. I remember asking you about capoeira there. It is a martial art believed to have been created from various African art forms.

    Is there a report on the Karpov visit?


  9. Sketchy indeed. I heard from GM Maxim Dlugy via Skype and he stated the meetings went fine, but many delegations stayed home fearing the wrath of the Ilyumzhinov camp. It will be interesting to finally see how delegations actually vote. The vote count will need heavy security.

  10. Are they going to ban cameras? Last election federation officials had to show photos in order to secure what was ‘promised’.

    With Kirsan now having only FIDE as his only option in life we can expect him to play every dirty trick in the book. Hopefully, Karpov has designed his own manouvers to counter this.

  11. I have no idea what will happen in Khanty Mansiyisk. All I know is that it will be very contentious. His decision to not stand for the office again is tactical. It gives the impression that he will spend more time with FIDE.

  12. From Mig Greengard “Daily Dirt” today:

    Dondo | September 13, 2010 12:25 AM | Reply

    Andy Soltis in today’s NY Post:

    The chess world could be in for a nightmare scenario this month.

    It begins to unfold Wednesday in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the Court of Arbitration for Sport will hear world champion Anatoly Karpov’s suit to disqualify his opponent, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, in an election for president of the international chess federation (FIDE).

    Also next week, a Moscow court is due to consider Ilyumzhinov’s defamation suit against Karpov.

    And then two weeks later, FIDE’s 160 or so national federations will choose between Ilyumzhinov, the incumbent president, and Karpov, the reformist-insurgent. Ilyumzhinov is expected to win in a landslide.

    But if the Swiss court vetoes Ilyumzhinov’s candidacy, Karpov — with the backing of perhaps only 40 countries — would become FIDE president.

    Ilyumzhinov would likely fight back and could refuse to yield power. That would leave FIDE, the body that organizes world championships, in chaos.

    It might get much worse: Ilyumzhinov, who is losing his day job as president of Russia’s Kalmykia, could even try to organize a rival to FIDE out of the 90-plus nations who support him.

  13. After the heated exchanges, it is hopeful that the problems with the charter flights is being remedied. Israel Gelfer had some heated exchanges with Nick Faulks of Bermuda (see below). He then wrote the organizing committee (with whom he was more civil), but it remains to be seen whether these problems have been solved. Several stories have been posted on various sites. Here is a recap of the exchange on August 26th:

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Mr. Israel Gelfer
    To: Nick Faulks ;
    Cc: Nigel Freeman ; FIDE Secretariat ; ; Hal Bond ;
    Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:43 PM
    Subject: Re: changes in the flight time of the charter via Munich for BER

    Dear Tatiana ,dear Mr. Bondarev

    Whereas I rose up against a previous letter of Mr. Faulks about accommodation , I am obliged to say that this time I must agree with him .

    This is completely unacceptable ,not the change and also not the way you informed about .

    There is another similar letter from the Polish federation ,and I am afraid that the Organizing Committee is running to

    a big trouble with this . I have warned Sergei so many times about it ,even before the announcment about charters in the web

    on July 28th [ which was ,to my mind already late ! ] ,but in vain . But now ,after one more month [ !] ,and less then one month before

    the charter ,to change again ?? . I understood from Berik that Fide President will write a letter about it to the Governor ,as this is

    an extremely serious case . The fact that when publishing the first charter schedule ,you have added ,that it is subjected to changes

    cannot stay by now ,and I am afraid that in the coming days there will be many more complains from the Munchen charter passengers .

    I am urging you to treat this problem very seriously .

    Best regards,

    Israel Gelfer

    From: Mr. Israel Gelfer []
    To: Nick Faulks [],
    Cc: Nigel Freeman [], FIDE Secretariat [],
    Sent: Thu, 26 Aug 2010 08:06:40 -0700
    Subject: Re: Bermuda team – accommodation
    Dear Mr. Faulks

    Without going into the details of invoice you got let me just respond to your style of your mail :

    I find your last message to the organizers ,and to Fide as disgraceful and unbearable and if I were the organizer

    I would simply disregard any mail from you ,from now on .

    Personally , I would not care if people like you would withdraw from the olympiad .

    Israel Gelfer

    From: Nick Faulks []
    Cc: Nigel Freeman [], Mr. Israel Gelfer [], FIDE Secretariat [],, Hal Bond [],
    Sent: Thu, 26 Aug 2010 12:38:50 -0700
    Subject: Re: changes in the flight time of the charter via Munich for BER

    Dear Tatiana,

    I’m sorry, this is unacceptable. Earlier this week my players rebooked their flights, at considerable expense, to take account of the previous change. Now they must change them again.

    I cannot confirm the cost, but it will certainly exceed the $800 that my federation has been invoiced for our delegate’s flight from Moscow. They simply cannot afford this, and the federation will have to cover this cost and reclaim it from the Olympiad organisers. I shall therefore not be paying the sum of $800, but shall offset it against our claim for the ticket alterations.

    Best wishes,

    Nick Faulks

    On 26 Aug 2010, at 01:06, wrote:

    > Dear sirs,
    > Please, pay attention to the changes in the flight time of the charter
    > Munich – Khanty-Mansiysk – Munich:
    > 19.09.2010
    > 16:25 Munich – Khanty-Mansiysk (03:00)
    > 04.10.2010
    > 04:35 Khanty-Mansiysk – Munich (05:10)
    > Best regards,
    > Tatiana Razina
    > OC Khanty-Mansiysk
    > transportation

    From: Nick Faulks []
    Cc: Mr. Israel Gelfer [], Nigel Freeman [], FIDE Secretariat [],
    Sent: Thu, 26 Aug 2010 05:49:43 -0700
    Subject: Re: Bermuda team – accommodation

    Dear Mr. Bondarev,

    I have received no reply to my email of 20th August, attached. I repeat that my federation will not authorise the release of funds for accommodation about which you cannot provide any details, and know that other federations feel the same way.

    Bermuda has taken part in Olympiads since 1976, and has never before been forced to pay in advance for undescribed services. In the case of a room for the team captain, this has not even been an issue, since you are the first organisers, and I hope the last, who are failing to provide this as a matter of courtesy.

    It is extremely disappointing that FIDE allows you to treat your guests in this way. But for the fact that several team members have already bought non-refundable tickets I would be withdrawing our entry.

    Yours sincerely,

    Nick Faulks

  14. Just heard from Kenneth Boikhutswane of Botswana who is stranded in the Dubai Airport now…

    10:45am Kenny
    Hello Daaim! hope you well. You coming to the olympiad?

    10:45am Daaim
    No. I will not be there. Are you traveling today?

    10:48am Kenny
    Yeah. Stranded in Dubai airport. Our charter moved to tomorrow and we never received correspondence despite my follwoing up and them confirming that we on the Sunday charter. Got here 5am and we board tomorrow at 0930 for Khanty. Its s big inconvenience, not even sure that we on the 0930 charter despite them confirming again today by email that we on it. you can imagine what it does to the players, 28 hours in the airport!

    10:49am Daaim
    Yes… there were several changes.

    So you cannot disembark? Too expensive?

    10:52am Kenny
    tried that roiute but way too expensive. would have had to pay visa each at U$157 dollars for 13 people. Hotel here at airport going at U$ 286 for two. There is no guarantee that if we paid we would get refunded despite claims to that, so we decided to play it safe

    10:53am Daaim

    I’m posting this on the blog.

    10:54am Daaim
    What other federations are there? I hear that the Kenyans are there.

    10:56am Kenny
    We have Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Burundi, Malawi, and two teams from Asia I have seen. There could be others around the airport i havent seen.

    10:59am Kenny
    Zambia had their letter infoeming them of the changes dated 16th Sept! I am concerned about whether we will have accomodation as per our payments, especially for the single rooms.

    11:00am Daaim
    It appears to be very disorganized. Keep me informed. Will you be sending stories to the news?

    11:03am Kenny
    I will sending out reports to bots on progress of Bots team, as I try to come out of ‘retirement’. I will send you reports as well

    11:07am Daaim
    I’m sorry to hear about the problems. I have been covering them on The Drum. I penned an essay about the potential problems.

    11:10am Kenny
    how on earth does someone change flight details 2 days prior to departure as if we are using a bus?its a shame really, coz changing tickets means more costs for federations. and with such a short timeframe, there isnt much one can do

  15. Communicated with Lekan Adeyemi of Nigeria and they are also in Dubai’s airport. However, he states that the mood is festive and there was “blood all over” in the airport battles between the countries there. 🙂

    He is in good spirits and states that they merely want to arrive safely.

  16. From the Kenyan Chess Group on Google yesterday, Maria Rehema sends message from Dubai…

    rehema Sep 18 08:49PM -0700

    Hey all!

    We just arrived at the Dubai International airport (Kenya’s Vision
    2030)… safely!

    By the time it’s over I’ll have been a good student of Mukabi’s
    history ‘sessions’.

    Most of us are mesmerised by the ‘force against gravity’s
    experience..,’ with others still aclimatizing to knowing when the
    plane touches down..ha!

    There are, reportedly, some delays caused by the change of flights so we might have to spend a day here as the charter flights have been changed.

    Of importance to mention is the Commissioner for Sports comments during the flagging off that BRANDING goes a long way to making improvements and attracting association, participation and the like.

    Despite the cliche, unending variations still keep popping up.

    We hope to offer the best representation while here.

    On behalf of everyone else, I thank you all for your support, prayers, good wishes, critiques, criticisms, etc.


    Maria Rehema

  17. FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is confident that Khanty-Mansiysk has become not only a star, but a bright star as the capital of the world chess.

    “Today I had an opportunity to meet the members of men and women teams , arbiters and representatives of dozens of countries. All I heard was delighted impressions about this Olympiad. All the participants are united in the opinion that the conditions provided here are perfect. And the most important is that as if the weather has been, so to say, ordered.”


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