Chess, Politics, and the Ground Zero Islamic Center Debacle

by Chris Borgen

OK, I never thought I’d write a post tying international arbitration, chess federation elections, and post-Soviet politics together.  Nor did I think that I’d follow that up with a post expanding on the post-Soviet politics issue and also throwing allegations of UFO abductions into the mix. And now, in the midst of all this other drama, World Chess Federation President (and President of Kalmykia) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has put in a bid for the site of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero (outbidding Donald Trump).  According to the NY Post:

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said he sent a letter on FIDE’s [the World Chess Federation's] behalf to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “with an offer to buy this land for $10 million,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The land near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks would be used for an international chess center and academy, Ilyumzhinov said.

“We named the sum of $10 million because last week billionaire Donald Trump gave an offer of $7.5 million and we decided to outdo him,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

Via ChessVibes and OneFIDE, Ilyumzhinov is quoted at having said:

“As President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), and as a person who has always supported inter religious understanding, I propose the construction of an International Chess Center at the site in question. Chess is a unique and intellectual game, it came to the West from the East, unites every country, and it has affinities with every religion equally. My dream as President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) is that chess becomes the only “battlefield” between East and West. Perhaps this is not yet possible, but we will do all we can to ease these tensions. At the International Chess Center, which would be erected in the immediate vicinity of Ground Zero, there would be a free chess school for children, national and international tournaments, and other educational and charitable activities. The Center would also hold annual memorial tournaments to benefit families of victims of the tragedy of September 11, 2001.”

This, from the man that brought you (or rather Kalmykia), Chess City.

Anyway, while I like this view of chess as an intellectual alternative to rollerball, I would prefer that we as Americans just show the religious toleration we proclaim in regards to an Islamic cultural center being built in lower Manhattan.

This might be my last dispatch from the crossroads of chess and international politics (although I do have to find out what happened with that CAS arbitration) but, as far as fodder for blogging goes, the presidency of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is like a gift that keeps giving.

http://opiniojuris.org/2010/09/19/chess-politics-and-the-ground-zero-islamic-center-debacle/

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  2. [...] a post tying international arbitration chess federation elections and postSoviet politics together. Nor did I think that Id follow that up with a post expanding on the postSoviet politics issue and [...]