The Director of the Baku Chess Olympiad Operating Committee and Vice-President of the Azerbaijan Chess Federation, Mahir Mammedov, has been interviewed by the tournament’s press-service.
– With less than a month left for the start of the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, what is the status of preparations for this prestigious event?
– There is an Operating Committee functioning within the Organizing Committee established by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. The Operating Committee is working hard. We are interacting with international chess organizations, participating countries and agencies within the country. The preparations are now entering the final stage. Within the Operating Committee, there are 18 subcommittees. We are mainly based at two locations. The head office of the Operating Committee is the same as that of the Baku European Games Operating Committee. The other office is at Crystal Hall, the venue of the Olympiad. The team responsible for organizational matters is based there.
– How many countries are expected to take part in the Baku Chess Olympiad?
– FIDE always tries to increase the number of countries participating in Olympiads. Our Olympiad will break the existing record. The previous competition held in Norway was joined by 172 countries, while the Baku Chess Olympiad will involve 180 countries. The registration is still under way, so the number could increase further. FIDE has 189 members, so we have almost reached the maximum number. Again, the Baku Olympiad will set a new record for the number of participating countries.
– Could you please say a few words about the opening of the Olympiad? What is in store for spectators?
– Preparations for the opening and closing ceremonies are currently under way. The closing ceremony is usually technical in nature. The opening ceremony will focus on the host country’s history, its attachment to sports and the Olympiad proper. We are still working on the script. The ceremony will be held at the National Gymnastics Arena and attended by 2,500-2,600 people. I would not like to go too much into detail because there will be a live broadcast of the opening ceremony. Let’s leave it somewhat hidden for the time being. It will be an interesting opening ceremony. We will touch upon Azerbaijan’s history of chess, the country’s ancient history and other aspects.
– A great number of foreign visitors, including chess players, will come to Baku for the Olympiad. Can they face problems with visas?
– The most important issue at the present is to speed up the visa process. Following a decree signed by the head of state, a procedure has been put in place to obtain visas for the Olympiad. The names of participants from each country are being verified, so that we could accelerate the provision of visas to all chess players and visitors. With the aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Migration Service, we are trying to provide visas to all chess players on the spot. The teams participating in the Olympiad will come to Baku at about the same time. If the visas are to be provided at the airport, this will be slow down the process of customs clearance. This is why we started preparing for this process in good time. Visas should be obtained in advance and chess players should pass airport examination quickly.
– What is the status of transportation and security matters?
– Transport problems are being addressed. We are conducting transport dry-runs. A company has been selected to take care of security matters. It is currently dealing with the training of its personnel. Olympiad-related banners will be posted at different locations of the city. As you know, we will cooperate with a total of 14 hotels. About 2,500 chess players and arbiters will be based at these hotels. There will be a hot-line during the competition, where visitors can ask their questions or raise concerns.
– Armenian media have circulated reports that Armenian players will not participate in the Olympiad. Has an official report been sent to the Operating Committee to confirm that?
– We provided the Armenian team with security guarantees. We are already experienced in organizing competitions involving Armenian players in Baku. If they do not want to participate in the Baku Chess Olympiad, this is their own responsibility. To be frank, we did not expect this decision because Armenian players did take part in the World Cup held in Baku last year. Armenian players, including Levon Aronian, did not experience any problems in Baku. Armenia was supposed to be represented by two teams in the Olympiad. Their men’s team is quite strong.
When FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov visited Baku, he said in a meeting with Azad Rahimov that Armenia was discussing this issue. They eventually decided not to come, but do not have an official document to that effect. We are still ready for their arrival. If they do come, we will receive them.
– Azerbaijan will field six teams in the Olympiad. What are the goals set before our chess players?
– There will be three training sessions. Two of these are already over. The next will start on 9 August. I do hope that all our players will be ready at the end of August. We always expect good results from the first team. The objective for every competition is to win. Of course, it would be naïve to expect second and third teams to do equally well. Our women’s team does not stand a good chance. Our men’s team has always been among the strongest in the world. In the last Olympiad in Norway, we shared the second and fifth places. In the last eight years, Azerbaijan has been European champion twice. Our team is quite experienced and we can legitimately expect it to do well. This is sport. We will certainly do our best to win.