Chess Olympics opens in Tromsø, Norway

The 41st Chess Olympiad opened in Tromsø on Friday – the first ever Olympic event to be held in Northern Norway.

Chess Olympics opens in Tromsø, Norway
Finance minister Siv Jensen opens the 41st Chess Olympic Games in Tromsø. Photo: Geir Arne Paulsen

Around 1,500 people attended a spectacular opening ceremony at Tromsø’s Skarphallen that featured a spectacular visual light show and music from some of Norway’s top bands.

Excitement had built steadily before the Games. Børge Robertson, CEO of the Olympiad said on their official website: “We are very excited! With 174 participating nations, the Chess Olympiad is the world’s fourth largest sporting event – and the biggest event ever held in northern Norway.”

Finance minister, Siv Jensen, officially opened the tournament which will see the best players in the world compete over two weeks. Prime Minister Erna Solberg will visit later in the championship.

In a speech on the opening night, Jensen said: “The world chess championship is a global event which attracts global interest. We have eleven days of exciting competition ahead of us. Norway is proud that the city of Tromsø was selected as host. ”

There was live music from Violet Road, Hekla Stålstrenga, Inger Biret Kvernmo Gaup and Lisa Stokke, accompanied by a full ensemble of the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra.

There was also guest appearance by Norway's and the world's top ranked chess player, Magnus Carlsen. The 23-year-old said: “I am very happy to be here and I am sure the Norwegian team can give everybody a fight in this tournament.”

The ceremony also saw the flag ceremony, the drawing of lots and a speech by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov welcoming in a “real festival of chess.” Ilyumzhinov also thanked the Norwegian government for granting 87 million kroner towards the event.

The Mayor of Tromsø, Jens Johan Hjort, was also in attendance on behalf of his city to host the opening ceremony. Hjort said: “We are proud and happy to put on these games and open our city to nations from all over the world. We hope the cool climate and the bright daylight here will be a good setting to deliver world-class chess games.”

Einar Gausel  – a Norwegian Chess Grandmaster – said on the organizer’s official website: “For Norwegian chess enthusiasts the fact that the Chess Olympiad will now take place in our own country is quite literally a dream come true. Magnus Carlsen’s conquering of the chess world has resulted in our beloved game gaining massive attention from mainstream media, and this mammoth event will no doubt boost public interest even further.”

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution and the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian Chess Federation. This is one of the main reasons why Norway applied to host this year’s Chess Olympiad. The event has attracted a record number of participants – with no less than 174 countries and 3,200 players, officials and FIDE representatives coming to Tromsø.

Visitors and locals to the chess can enjoy a packed schedule of events, education and activities connected to the Olympiad and taking place in and around the city.

Local Tromsø brewery, Mack, has produced a special-edition beer called “Sjakk Mack” (Check-Mack) for the Chess Olympiad. Also, Norway’s Postal Service released a commemorative stamp on Friday in honour of the Games and Magnus Carlsen. Norwegian artist Arild Yttri designed the stamp and 500,000 will be printed.

Chess Olympiad stamp
Magnus Carlsen stamp launched on Friday by Posten. Photo: Posten / NTB scanpix

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