Saturday, October 21, 2006

Aussie Youths Detained at Border

Sixteen Australians are in Batumi, Gegorgia to compete in the 2006 World Youth Championships. The 16, as well as their scores, can be found on this page.

Now there is no point going to the official site as it's pretty much next to useless. I'm hoping that they can have some games available for download soon.

However, thanks very much to Canberra chess organiser Jenni Oliver (and, of course, her extensive network of contacts), we can at least give you some first-hand reports from Georgia. We understand that the conditions are worse than that near total disaster in Belfort, France.

The following are excerpts from an email all the way from Batumi.

Everyone was expecting a three hours bus trip so we didn’t have dinner. Who could imagine that we got stopped at Turkey/Georgia border? We were always told that there would be no need to apply for visa to Georgia and all we had to do is to give Georgian border our passport and a photo of each person. The border control officer told us that she could not process the visa as a group and it will take 10mins to process each person and there were about 100 of us. We also got told that they could only take Lari for visa application fee and there was no bank open for us to get money exchanged at 12am. My husband called the tournament organizer’s mobile and he talked to the border control officer and he said that he will talk to someone high up and get back to us. Another two hours of waiting….During this time, James got so sick and his face was so paled and he had stomach pain and was throwing up. An ambulance was called. In the mean time, all of us got asked to stay in the bus and the bus door has to be closed. The bus’s engine was shut down so the air inside the bus was really bad. I was yelling at the bus driver and the border control officer and asking them to keep the door open. Eventually we were asked to leave our passports with the border officer so we could keep going our way to Batumi. When we finally arrived in the Hotel Victoria, it was almost 5am.


The dinner was a small dish of cold rice with some threaded carrots on top of it. We also got some cold bread with feta chess. That’s our dinner. No meat, no salad, no fruits. They give us some hot tea so we can swallow the cold food!

Well, that's just awful! But let's not start with the bad vibes. We hope that our band of chess warriors can hold their stomachs together and fight hard in that far away place. Our prayers are with them.

Thanks again to Jenni for this scoop.


Anonymous said...

While I have no doubt the average georgian is a nice person you would have to had rocks in your head to visit Georgia at this point in time.

The country is in a state of continual political crisis,where violence and threats of violence both internally and from Russia abroad are a reality. When the country is in general chaos you cant expect basic conditions.

Did the parents of these juniors bother to consult the department of foreign affairs for travel advice before they went?

You may as well have taken a "holiday" to North Korea. lol

When FIDE tried to organise the womens world championship in Georgia a few years ago the top players refused to play there because of the political instability leading to bad conditions.

The only reason why Georgia even got to host this event was because of The Right Move campaign,it was originally intended for Turkey but they had the event taken away from them by FIDE due to the turkish federation supporting The Right Move. Georgia was handed the event even though they were fairly underprepared for the event.

So whats the moral of this story?

Think very carefully where you send your kids to play!

Milan Lee said...

Few months ago Serbian U21 football team had to play qualifier game in Georgia. They were told that "everything is arranged" before heading of from Belgrade. Yet, they were hold at the Tbilisi airport for couple of hours until someone from their football federation arrived to say it's okay to let them in.

You can watch some games live via MonRoi. Btw, Brana Malobabic, MonRoi CEO, said that 5-star hotel has no internet connection :) She's trying to persuade hotel manager to install the line.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the Philippines send Wesley So to compete in the U-14?
Based on his ratings, he should be the top seed and favoritye to win the World U-14. If So is the brightest and best youth today in the Philippines then the NCFP thru Prospero Pichay JR. should explain why So is not participating in this event. This is very shameful to my country, wherein the best was not sent to Georgia. There were a lot of participating countries in this tournament.

Anonymous said...

Yes the Aussie parents did consult DFAT travel warnings (which are actually not that bad for Georgia, as long as you pick where you go e.g. NOT the Pankisi Gorge.) The area has stabilised a lot in the last 2 years.

Obviously there were some parents who were not prepared to go (and I have to admit once Gareth was unable to accept his selection becasue of a clash with Uni exams I did breathe a huge sigh of relief)

However for most parents and children the lure of the chess and the ability to play a tournament at this level outweighed any danger or inconvenience.

You can get run over by a car outside your own home after all.


Anonymous said...

Dont forget kidnapping as well Jenni...

Anonymous said...

Well yes the kidnapping stuff sounded a bit scary. :) However it takes more than that to scare Aussie parents and kids.

They did make a few preventative decisions

- travel via Trabzond, so just a quick hop over the border to Batumi (well should have been quick, but the border guards prevented that).

- Any sightseeing to be done as a group and not individuals.

The kidnapping does tend to be in country areas and not in towns like Batumi.

Georgia has the middle warning - "high degree of caution", but so does South Africa, Thailand and Turkey and there are hordes of Australian who travel there without a second thought....

The food issues have caused much more of a problem than potential kidnapping. :)