It took the Tamil Nadu government just a few hours to decide on hosting the prestigious 44th Chess Olympiad at Mamallapuram near Chennai. It was the last week of February and Bharat Singh Chauhan, Secretary, All India Chess Federation (AICF) was at his wits end trying to shortlist a venue at short notice.
Russia, which had originally bagged the event, had lost its chance after invading Ukraine. With Poland and Uzbekistan keen to host the event, he had to move really fast to bring the event into India for the first time. The last time the Olympiad was held anywhere in Asia was 30 years ago.
When he reached out to the Tamil Nadu government, which was one of the States on his list of potential hosts, he was asked to come to Chennai the same evening. The State bureaucracy worked at top speed. Mamallapuram was pitched as a venue, and the Chief Minister freed up his calendar to meet with Chauhan the next day and gave his in-principle nod. A formal letter was issued by the State Government by 4 pm the same day. “Decision-making of the State government was very fast,” AICF officials said.
Here is the story of how Chennai bagged the Chess Olympiad hosting rights.
Mamallapuram, with its beaches and resorts, impressed the International Chess Federation (FIDE), who, after an initial recce, approved the venue early in March. The Tamil Nadu Government, along with AICF, had just little over 4 months to execute the event.
Funds and mascot
Soon, the state government sanctioned ₹92 crore for conducting the Olympiad. It also deployed 37 IAS officers across departments to oversee and ensure that everything was done to create the necessary infrastructure for the event.
The mascot, Thambi, was soon unveiled and the State Government started a publicity blitz around the event. Music director AR Rahman, was roped in to compose the chess anthem. Roads and bridges were painted in Chess colours and hoardings were erected across the State, not just in Chennai. Chess competitions were held in all 38 districts, and the winners would get a chance to see the Olympiad live.
The venue is ready and Hall-2, which will have the maximum number of boards, was erected in just 40 days. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the event on July 28.
On July 29, all 700 boards will be in action. In all, 3,000 people will land in Chennai, including 1,400 players from across 187 countries (a new record). The players have started to arrive and have been accommodated in 30 plus hotels in and around the venue. “It is great to have a host like Tamil Nadu,” say AICF officials, who are confident of pulling off a perfect event.