India’s sporting culture is becoming stronger due to the perfect mix of the energy of youth and the enabling environment. Sports is beautiful because they have the inherent power to unite and bring people and societies closer, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sports nurtures a spirit of teamwork. There has never been a better time for sports in India than the present, he said while inaugurating the 44th Chess Olympiad on Thursday.

“India had its best-ever performances in the Olympics, Paralympics and Deaflympics. We achieved glory even in sports where we had not won earlier,” he said. “In sports, there are no losers. There are winners and there are future winners,” he added.

The Prime Minister highlighted that Tamil Nadu has a strong historical connection with chess. This is why it is a chess powerhouse for India and produced many of India’s chess grandmasters.

“I declare the 44th Chess Olympiad Open. Let the game begin,” he said in his concluding remarks in the presence of Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi; Chief Minister MK Stalin; and President of International Chess Federation (FIDE), Arkady Dvorkovich.

The Indian women’s team, which is ranked number one, will start with black pieces, while the US men’s team — ranked number one — will also start the tournament with a black piece. The Prime Minister picked up the black pieces for the two teams in a draw.

In his speech, Stalin said that “hosting the Chess Olympiad for the first time in India is a big honour. We are further delighted that Tamil Nadu has got this honour”.

The games will commence at Mamallapuram on Friday afternoon and go on till August 10.

The competition, which has been organised since 1927, is being hosted in Asia after 30 years. This is the largest participation in any Chess Olympiad. India is also fielding its biggest-ever contingent in the competition comprising 30 players across six teams.