Politics takes centre stage as 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad opens in Chennai

Both #GoBackModi and #Vanakkam_Modi were trending on Twitter.

Published : Jul 28, 2022 20:35 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being felicitated by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin at the opening ceremony of the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai on July 28.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being felicitated by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin at the opening ceremony of the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai on July 28. | Photo Credit: PTI

A protest by Pakistan over India “attempting to politicise” the Chess Olympiad, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) protest over the exclusion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pictures in the publicity material relating to the mega show by the Tamil Nadu government, and the theme of ‘unity in diversity’ in the inaugural ceremony marked the inauguration of the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai, which is being held for the first time in India.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement on July 27: “India has chosen to politicise this prestigious international sporting event by passing the torch relay of this event through the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). The torch relay passed through Srinagar on 21 June 2022.”

“By passing the torch relay through IIOJK, in utter disregard of the globally acknowledged ‘disputed’ status of the territory, India has committed a travesty that the international community cannot accept under any circumstances. India must know that by such provocative and indefensible actions, it can neither seek nor claim international legitimacy for its unjustifiable, illegal and tyrannical occupation of IIOJK continuing for over 7 decades,” the statement said.

Pakistan, announcing a boycott of the Chess Olympiad, condemned “India’s mischievous attempt to mix politics with sports”. It said that it “will also raise the matter with the International Chess Federation at the highest level”.

Modi, Stalin share stage

Modi and Chief Minister M.K. Stalin share a stage at a time when several opposition Members of Parliament, including some from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), have been suspended for the remaining part of the monsoon session of the Parliament. July 28, the inaugural day of the Chess Olympiad, also witnessed a vicious verbal attack on Congress president Sonia Gandhi by two women Ministers in Parliament and outside it. At the time of writing this report, there was no reaction from Stalin, one of the main allies of the Congress.

Stalin had invited Modi for the Olympiad when Modi was in Chennai for the inauguration of various centrally-aided schemes in May this year. Stalin told this correspondent that he had invited Modi for the Olympiad and that the Prime Minister could either attend the inaugural or the valedictory ceremony. The Prime Minister, he said, wanted details of the Olympiad and later confirmed that he would attend the inaugural ceremony.

For the first time since live television invaded homes in India, the arrival of a Prime Minister in Chennai was not the subject of a breathless live coverage by Tamil cable news TV channels. Most channels focussed on the Nehru Indoor Stadium, where the inaugural show was already on. The Prime Minister, who landed at the Chennai Airport in a special aircraft, flew to INS Adyar, the naval station near the banks of the Cooum, and was taken to the venue of the function.

Soon after the Prime Minister landed in Chennai, Edappadi K. Palaniswami, interim general secretary, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), was among those who received him. Palaniswami, who was in Delhi recently ahead of the new President’s swearing-in ceremony, had returned to Chennai ahead of his scheduled departure after it was made clear to him that there would not be a formal meeting with the Prime Minister in Delhi.

Ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit to Chennai, hashtags such as #GoBackModi and #GoBack_Modi were trending since July 27. Today, #Vanakkam_Modi was also trending and this hashtag had clocked over seven lakh tweets at the time of writing this report.

Unity in diversity

The music and the art forms from across India performed at the inaugural had the same theme–that of unity in diversity. The other cultural events centre-staged Tamil Nadu’s heritage and pride as a civilisation that pioneered many new technologies and which had breached frontiers in all walks of life. Actor Kamal Hassan did the English voice-over for the show on Tamil civilisation.

Director Vignesh Sivan did not leave anything out in the show. Every single scripture and literary work of significance was quoted. Tholkappiyam, Silappadikaram, Tirukkural took the pride of place. Thinkers and writers who made Tamil Nadu unique in many ways, from Valluvar to Bharathiar and Bharathidasan found a place. The larger message was that in every adversity Tamils had stood together as one.

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