Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dresden Olympiad 2008 Opens

Firsly, I must apologise to our readers who expected me to live blog from the venue. I hadn't realised that the opening would actually take place some 500m from the main playing hall, in a skating rink (the Freiberger Arena).

Calling the Olympiad a "triumph of the human spirit" and a "communion" of players, media, organisers and everyone else involved in the Games - Florencio Campomanes last night officially opened the Dresden Olympiad. That was only after a string of musical performances that included snippets from Chess (the musical), Queen's We Are the Champions and some sort of German rap! Ice skaters and cheer leaders, too, entertained the crowd that included some of the world's chess luminaries. Ivanchuk, Aronian, van Wely, Nakamura were just a few of the big wigs mingling with the audience; and so were the Australians, the girls (sans Arianne) looking proud in the green and gold, while the boys looked ready to collapse in bed after their long journeys.

Taking their cue from the biggger Olympic Games, Dresden also featured a parade of nations, with each team being represented by a couple of schoolchildren - one to carry the flag, the other to carry the country's name placard. The two-hour session took its toll on the poor kid representing Madagascar. He fell ill and had to be removed.

In fact, I was a tad worried about Susan Polgar. She appeared uncomfortable as she walked on the icy surface on her way to lighting the flame. Fortunately, she made it! But even more worrying was Florencio Campomanes. The poor guy, still popular among many who just love to have their photo taken with the FIDE legend, walked the long way to the stage and supported firmly on either side by both Winfried Lehmann and Dirk Jordan, respectively the president and chairman of the Dresden organising committee. Campo coughed now and then. His speech was slow at times, but still as eloquent as ever.

About two hours after we began, the crowd piled out of their seats to enjoy some German cuisine. We're talking soup, pretzels and sausages. Good for players as they get the stuff for free. I had to fork out €1.50 for my pretzels!

We're now just a couple hours before the first angry shots will be fired across the boards. I'll try to do some live blogging, but note that as there is no direct internet connection from the main playing hall, it will be slow and cumbersome. However, I will definitely post pictures from the round just minutes after it starts. So come back as often as you can. Also, for obvious reasons, I'll cover mainly the Australian and RP teams. The Kiwi team will also be mentioned quite extensively.

UPDATE: I've now posted some photos from last night's opening ceremony.

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