Strong criticism Danailov towards Olympiad organizers
In an open letter distributed last week ECU President Silvio Danailov expressed strong criticism towards the Turkish Chess Federation concerning several aspects of the Istanbul Olympiad. Danailov points out that there are only three rooms per team and very high prizes for additional accommodation. He also refers to a € 100 organization fee that every participant needs to pay, and accuses FIDE of a conflict of interest.
Controversy is growing over the upcoming Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey. Besides the arbiters story, there's concern about a number of other aspects, especially related to the accommodation. Last week, the President of the European Chess Union (ECU), Silvio Danailov, distributed a letter (dated June 6th) to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the FIDE Presidential Board, the Commission for World Championships and Olympiads and to all national federations.
Despite the fact that it says "open letter" in the header, for some reason the ECU decided not to send the letter to chess media. We did receive it, a few days ago, via unofficial channels. It appeared online last Friday at some places: Stefan Löffler put it up on his blog, and Chess-News published it too. Here it goes:
To FIDE President H.E Kirsan Ilyumzhinov To FIDE Presidential Board To WCO Commission To All National Federations
Madrid, June 6th 2012
Open letter regarding 40th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul Turkey
Big Disappointment in Istanbul?
For the past few days I have received e-mails and phone calls from various members of the chess family, most of them being Presidents of national federations. All of them have expressed a deep concern and resentment in relation to the 40th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul.
To be more precise, the level of costs for accommodation and conditions the organizers operate towards each federation are historically negative.
Also, as the President of a national federation, I was shocked when I saw the invitation and the regulations.
Only 3 rooms / team, combined with extremely high price for accommodation. If you compare their prices for a single room in a 5 stars hotel that you can achieve on the internet at the same hotel, it means that the food should cost more than 120€/day. And, from what I know about the prices level in Turkey, this food has to be legendary. I am very surprised that the organizers have not been able to make a better deal than this, especially when they have more than 30 000 nights and boards which gives them extraordinary negotiating and purchasing ability.
Until now, I did not feel the need to deal with the rules of FIDE concerning the organization of Chess Olympiad. This time I am obliged to do that. The conclusion is clear – the rules are good, but none of the important stipulations of the rules has been complied with.
It is stated in the rules that the contract between FIDE and the organizer on the organization of the Olympiad has to be signed three months after the organization of Olympiad is awarded. Mind you, the organizers of the Olympiad in Tromso signed the contract in October 2011, which is almost three years before the beginning of the Olympiad. Also, FIDE and the Turkish Chess Federation signed the contract on 29 April 2012, which is less than four months before the beginning of the Olympiad! Maybe not needless to say, the rules say that the organizer is obliged to deliver the invitation to FIDE office six months before the beginning of the Olympiad. In this case, the invitation was published a bit more than three months before the beginning. Last but not the least, the rules say that the future organizer is obliged to provide FIDE with the bank guarantee in the amount of 1 million Euros, in four annual installments. As a FIDE PB member, I am not familiar with the fact; however the FIDE Treasurer probably knows if the organizer complied with the rule. He also probably knows if certain measures had been taken if the rule was not complied with.
All of the above-mentioned would not be a problem if the federations were not faced with a huge problem after that – the drastic rise in prices and expenses. For the first time in history, a man, if he is the captain of a women’s team, will not be provided with a single room by the organizer. ’Find a solution on your own, make arrangements with some other team’ is the organizer’s message in the regulations. Could any reasonable person even imagine such a situation – the captains of the Russian and Ukrainian teams having preparations for the final match with their chess players - in a shared double room? If it were not sad and cynical, it would be funny.
Let’s take a look at the financial repercussions of all this – let’s assume that a national federation sends a man to the Olympiad as the women’s team captain. In addition, it is logical that at least the captain and the best player of a men’s team are provided with single rooms. Finally, any serious federation would like to send a coach with each of their teams. The expenses of such a ’pleasure’ amount to 12,600 €! At the last Olympiad, the price would amount to acceptable 5,000 €.
As a chess organizer, I am sure that around 1,000 persons will use the service of ’separation’ of double rooms or additional rooms that should be paid for. The difference between the highest price in the previous Olympiads and the prices in the Olympiad in Istanbul is more than 1 million Euros.
In addition, in the bid for the organization of the Olympiad, it was not stated that each participant will have to pay the ’organization fee’ in the amount of 100 €. Again very easily we can realize that more than 2,000 participants at the Olympiad and FIDE Congress will additionally pay around 250,000 €.
To be more precise, apart from the venue, basically nothing was stated in the bid. With that being said, the organizer was able to do whatever he wanted – to set the prices he wanted, to choose the hotels at the airport, railway stations or any other place. FIDE was the only one who could and had to prevent the organizer from doing all that. But now we should introduce a very well known phrase – the conflict of interest. Is it realistic to expect a person to prevent himself from creating hotel prices or to award the organization of an event to some other organizer because he has not complied with the rules? Could anyone imagine that a person files a lawsuit in the court against himself, and then writes an appeal and a response and appears as a witness on both sides?
At the end of this letter, I have to point out that I am not very much satisfied with the fact that I am the first to react to this problem. However, as the Continental President, I could not remain silent. I could not remain blind and deaf to the fact that almost 1, 5 million € will unnecessarily be gone from the budgets of national chess federations. I am not the one who should deal with the place where the money will end, but this question is open: Where does this money go and what for? I raise my voice with a clear message – the breach of rules at the expense of national chess federations and chess in general has to stop. Now. Enough is enough.
Danailov is known to be a controversial figure in the chess world himself, but this letter seems quite to the point. All points of criticism addressed by him deserve a closer look by everyone involved.
On May 4th, the Turkish Chess Federation invited teams and officials of all member federations to the Olympiad and FIDE Congress, to be held August 27th tlll September 10th in Istanbul, Turkey. They also disclosed the playing venue: Halls 9, 10 and 11 of the Istanbul World Trade Center, which are located right next to Atatürk Airport.
The Istanbul World Trade Center
This means that the games will in fact be played 15 km from the city center. According to Google Maps it should be a 23 minute taxi drive, but naturally this depends on the traffic. There are many other ways of transportation as well.
In the same invitation, the Turkish Chess Federation announced the official hotels: WOW Hotels, Radisson Blu Airport, Holiday Inn Airport Hotel, Green Park Merter Hotel, Courtyard Marriott Hotel, Ataköy Marina, Hotel, Adela Hotel, Titanic Airport Hotel and Polat Renaissance Hotel. In the latter the FIDE Congress will be held.
On the website of the Olympiad, more details can be found about the accommodation options. As mentioned by Danailov, only three (double) rooms per team will be available (plus two single rooms for a head of the delegation and a FIDE delegate). At an Olympiad most teams consist of four players, one reserve player and a captain. All this might lead to awkward situations, for example where one female player has to share a room with a male captain.
Some federations might be able to find a solution, e.g. by having a team captain and the FIDE delegate sharing a room, but no doubt many federation officials are browsing the above hotel websites as we speak, to investigate other options. But the prices are steep, and there might be additional costs, as the following details at the accommodation page show:
If a federation wants to change their double rooms to single rooms they should pay 100,00 Euro each day for each person for upgrade.
Each person who is registered for Olympiad in any duty will pay 100,00 Euro organization fee (including accommodating people) consists of accreditation, transportation, organization (before 1st July 2012). (...)
If your Federation require a distribution plan differing from the plan above there will be additional costs which will directly be charged to the respective Federation.
After mentioning other issues, Danailov points to what may be the most serious aspect: a potential conflict of interest. Ali Nihat Yazici is both head of the Turkish Chess Federation and therefore head of the organizing committee, but at the same time Vice President of FIDE, the only organization that would be able to demand other conditions.
Some federations are already considering to boycott the Olympiad, according to the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP). Here's part of their letter, which we added as an update to yesterday's article:
We would like to remind Mr. Yazici and the whole chess community, that Olympiads were always seen as a major event which unites people, and in good old days, all the wars were terminated, when the Olympiad was about to start. (...)
We have been informed, that if the situation doesn't change, some of the affected federations would consider to boycott the Olympiad altogether and not to send their players to Istanbul.
The Turkish Chess Federation has been responsible for many official FIDE events in recent years, and it's not the first time that they were criticized for their policy of accommodation. For instance, 18 participants of the 2010 Women's World Championship in Hatay, Turkey, including former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, signed an open letter which addressed several issues concerning accommodation and food.
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