Harping on India’s recent successes in the international sporting arena and how sports brought the world together during the century’s biggest pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday inaugurated the FIDE 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai, declaring, “In sports there are no losers. There are winners and there are future winners.”
Noting that the most prestigious tournament in chess had for the first time come to India – the home of chess – during the 75th year of freedom from colonial rule, Mr. Modi said there had never been a better time for sport in India than the present. The country had its best ever performances in the Olympics, Paralympics and Deaflympics.
“We achieved glory even in sports where we had not won earlier. Today sports is seen as a great profession of choice. India’s sporting culture is becoming stronger due to the perfect mix of two important factors – energy of youth and enabling environment,” he said. The Prime Minister noted talented youngsters, especially from small towns and villages, are bringing glory and it was heartening to see women at the lead of India’s sports revolution. He credited administrative framework, incentive structure and infrastructure for this.
Pat for organisers
Applauding the organisers for managing the event within a short time, Mr. Modi noted it was only for the first time in three decades the tournament was being organised in Asia with the participation of the highest number of players and teams. Besides, for the first time the Olympiad had a torch relay, across 75 iconic locations, travelling over 27,000 km.
Mr. Modi said the most prestigious tournament in chess had come to India, – “the home of chess” and that too to Tamil Nadu the “chess powerhouse of India”.
“Tamil Nadu is home to the finest minds, vibrant culture and the oldest language in the world, Tamil,” said Mr. Modi, who was dressed in a shirt, dhoti and a shawl (with black and white checked borders) – the traditional attire of Tamil Nadu. Citing the Chathuranga Vallabhanathar Temple near Needamangalam in Tamil Nadu, he said it had a story of the king playing chess with a princess.
The Prime Minister noted how when the world began to fight the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, for a long time life had come to a standstill. “In such times it was various sports tournaments which brought the world together. Each tournament gave the important message we are stronger when together, we are better when together,” he said.
“I am seeing the same spirit here. The post-COVID period had made us realise the importance of fitness and wellness – both physical and mental. That is why it is important to encourage sporting talents and invest in sporting infrastructure,” he said.
Earlier, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said India was proud to host the international chess event. He also recalled the conducting of a major chess event with over 20,000 players when Mr. Modi was the Gujarat Chief Minister. Recalling the efforts the Tamil Nadu government took to host the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai within three months, Mr. Stalin commended all those involved in the hosting of the event. He said hosting of the event would elevate Tamil Nadu’s profile in the international arena.
At the colourful inauguration ceremony in the fully-packed Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium, an impressive show was performed by artists drawn from various States to showcase the rich and diverse cultural dances from various parts of the country. The Tamil Nadu government, which sanctioned over ₹92 crore to host the Chess Olympiad, also showcased the rich history of Tamil language, its culture and ancient political history.
Union Minister for Sports Anurag Singh Thakur, Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting L. Murugan and FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich also spoke. Governor R.N. Ravi participated.
When offered the draw of lots, Mr. Modi uncovered black pieces for both India, the top seed in women category as well as the United States, the top seed in the open category. Earlier, legendary chess player Viswanathan Anand handed over the torch relay to the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister. Later, the Prime Minister handed over the torch to three chess players who used it to light the Olympiad flame in the stadium.