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Belarus Loses 2022 Chess Olympiad
The Belarusian team at the 2018 Batumi Olympiad. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Belarus Loses 2022 Chess Olympiad

PeterDoggers
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245 | Chess Politics

The International Chess Federation has reopened the bid for the 2022 Chess Olympiad. According to FIDE, the Belarus organizers failed to perform their organizational and financial duties.

2022 Olympiad not in Minsk

The 2020 Moscow Olympiad has been moved to the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The next Olympiad is planned for 2022, but it's now unclear where it will be held.

The 2022 Olympiad was scheduled to be held in Minsk after the Belarus organizers won the bid, which was approved by the General Assembly in October 2018. This has now been overturned by the FIDE Council.

The reason given by FIDE is a breach of financial duties: the Belarusian Ministry of Sports could not guarantee advanced payments and insurance. Chess.com's request to make more details available, such as their contract with the Belarus organizers, was rejected by FIDE.

"We should note a violation of certain financial obligations on the part of the organizers," FIDE's legal advisor Aleksandr Martynov wrote in an email. "Out of respect for the organizers, we would not like to specify the amounts, but these are quite significant violations."

According to Martynov, talks between FIDE and the Belarus organizers were ongoing for months to no avail: "FIDE has been conducting negotiations in good faith for several months, but, unfortunately, they have not been successful. The violations and their significance are not disputed by the organizers."

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich visit to Minsk Igor Petrishenko.
In October 2019 FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich visited Minsk where he met with the intended main organizer of the Olympiad in Belarus, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Petrishenko. Photo: FIDE.

It was FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich who made the decision to reopen the bid, which he reported to the FIDE Council. The FIDE delegates will be informed at the next General Assembly, scheduled to be held online in the second week of December 2020.

Besides the 2022 Olympiad itself, which is expected to take place in August 2022, the new bidding process includes the organization of the 2022 FIDE Congress. Furthermore, the 2020 FIDE Women’s World Cup (postponed to April 2021) and the 2021 FIDE World Cup (planned for September 2021) need new organizers as well.

Combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing political crisis makes it hard to organize large international sports events in Belarus. Over the last eight weeks, the country has seen political demonstrations and protests since President Alexander Lukashenko has claimed victory in the presidential elections in early August, while opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has claimed to have received 60–70 percent of the votes.

Speaking to Chess.com, FIDE President Dvorkovich emphasized that the financial problems the Belarus organizers are facing are hardly related to the political unrest. "Of course, it doesn't help, but this is definitely not the primary reason. Already early summer, before the elections, they told us they could not organize the events."

Chess.com has reached out to the organizers but has been unable to get in touch with them.

Chess players sign open letter

On September 18 an open letter was published in which sportspeople and industry workers are taking the side of the opposition. To date, it has over 650 signatures, and some of those are from chess players.

The athletes condemn "numerous facts of falsification" of the election results and the "gross violence by the security forces against peaceful protesting citizens" and demand new elections and the release of arrested protesters and political prisoners.

In case the signatories become aware of any pressure, threats, or infringement of their rights, they promise in solidarity to refuse to play for the national team or to organize international and national sports events. Any such facts will be reported to IOC and international sports federations.

Anastasia Sorokina
WIM Sorokina. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Among the signatories is WIM Anastasia Sorokina, president of the Belarus Chess Federation. She is also a FIDE vice president, international arbiter, and international organizer and has actively supported the protests from day one.

Sorokina declined comments to Chess.com. In August, she commented to The Telegraph: "I can’t keep pretending that nothing is happening. I supported the government for a long time because I saw that a lot of things were done to advance sports, and things were calm and quiet. The fact that people’s choice was not recognized, was a point of no return for me."

Other signatories of the letter include six-time Belarusian champion GM Andrei Zhigalko, GM Evgeniy Podolchenko, IM Vitaly Meribanov, FM Dimitri Bulanov, WGM Lanita Stetsko, CM Igor Povod, WFM Natallia Kusenkova, WIM Tatiana Berlin, Ilia Sapon, Anastasia Selenchik, and Vladislav Zakrzheuski.

Chess.com changes flag

Meanwhile, Chess.com has temporarily changed the flag it uses out of solidarity with the people who oppose the non-democratically elected leadership. The chess platform will review this change as the situation develops.

Members who have chosen the country Belarus in their profile now have the white-red-white flag instead of the red-and-green flag with a white-and-red ornament pattern.

Belarus flag Chess.com
The Belarus flag has been changed on Chess.com.

The red-and-green flag is still the official flag in Belarus. It is an adaptation of a similar design approved in a 1995 referendum and derives from an older flag used when the country was a republic of the Soviet Union.

The white-red-white flag is older and dates to the time before Belarus was a Soviet state. It was also used in the years 1991-1995 and is now the preferred flag for the opposition and widely used in the protests.

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