Baku to host the 2016 Olympiad

Yesterday the FIDE General Assembly took the decision that Azerbaijan would receive the right to host the 42nd Chess Olympiad. As many had predicted it required no vote, as the bid from Baku was superior to the other two – from Bulgaria and Estonia. The other predictable event was that Armenia officially announced its non-participation in the 2016 Olympiad.

Report from Istanbul by Evgeny Atarov

It had long been clear that Azerbaijan would be granted the 2016 Olympiad. Their federation had twice in recent years made serious concessions to FIDE, reluctantly renouncing the Candidates Tournaments in 2010 and 2013, and therefore you could say with confidence that the 2016 Olympiad wouldn’t escape their grasp… It wasn’t so long ago that FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov paid a working visit to Baku, where he discussed plans for potential events that included not only the Olympiad but also other long-term chess projects.

Albena (Bulgaria) and Tallin (Estonia) had no great illusions about their chances of receiving the Olympiad. They didn’t even spend any money on holding presentations about their cities. Baku, meanwhile, did have a presentation – and quite a lavish one – both in the exhibition centre and directly at the General Assembly.

Farhad Hajiyev, the Executive Director of the Azerbaijan Youth Foundation, make a speech to the delegates in which he gave a detailed account of his federation’s bid. Those gathered in the hall had the chance to appreciate the charms of the Caucasus republic and its level of preparation for the Olympiad in a brief, but impressive video.

After that Azad Ragimov, the Minister of Youth and Sports, took the floor: “Baku is capable of holding the 2016 Chess Olympiad and the 2015 World Cup at the highest level… We have all the conditions and infrastructure required. Azerbaijan is one of the world’s leading chess centres, and we’re investing great sums in chess!”

The latter was perhaps the decisive factor in choosing Baku for the future Olympiad. You can’t say the Azeris are throwing money around, but in contrast to many they’re not trying to earn from the players but instead are providing brilliant conditions for holding the events. So, until we meet in Baku in 2016…

As regards the participation of the Armenian team in the Olympiad, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov promised that on his part he’d try to settle the eternal conflict: “I’ve visited Armenia and Azerbaijan. I discussed the possibility of holding the Olympiad in Baku with the Armenian President. Then I met the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. Both presidents are my friends and we often get in touch. The Olympiad will take place in four years and I hope that by then the Azerbaijan-Armenian conflict will have been resolved. Let’s play chess!”