PtG Article 29.09.2006

Eccentric chess president wants to be president of IOC

The president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, has plans to stand as president of the IOC in order to attract more attention to chess as a sport. And the ploy might work. Ilyumzhinov is an eccentric who is also president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia and claims he was once abducted by aliens.

The news that Ilyumzhinov plans to promote chess through an IOC platform emerged in Russia this week. Interfax news agency reported on Monday that Ilyumzhinov wanted to stand as IOC vice president and the next day it said that the chess president now aims at the IOC presidency itself.

The plan is not to win the lection but to make chess an Olympic discipline again.

”The participation of the FIDE president in the elections of the IOC president will attract attention to chess and to the issue of including it in the Olympic movement,” Ilyumzhinov told Interfax.

A mobile phone to all shepherds

The question is whether Ilyumzhinov’s potential candidature would attract positive attention to chess.

Iluymzhinov made a fortune during the breakup of the USSR, and in 1993 he was elected president of the small Russian republic of Kalmykia after promising voters 100 US dollars each and a mobile phone for all shepherds. According to the BBC, he quickly introduced presidential rule concentrating power in his own hands and has managed to cling to power since then despite severe social and economic problems in the republic.

Democratic problems in FIDE

Ilyumzhinov’s great passion is chess and he was elected president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) in 1995. However, unhappiness with his undemocratic rule culminated this summer with a serious challenge from a group calling itself The Right Move (link disabled).

The group called for a return to simple and concrete rules of democracy, transparency and accountability.

”It is high time. In spite of generous financial contributions FIDE has not been able to prevent the decline of its reputation. Let us recreate an image of FIDE as a truly democratic, transparent and professional sports federation,” said Bessel Kok in a speech challenging Ilyumzhinov for the presidency.

Bessel Kok lost, and an observer posting to the Internet reported curious incidents of what appeared to be vote-rigging.

Ilyumzhinov is president for another four years and on Saturday 23 September he welcomed the world press to his capital Elista for a tournament to decide the best chess player on earth. He showed journalists around ChessCity which has cost 50 million US dollars and it was also on this occasion he told the Guardian how he was abducted by aliens:

”They took me from my apartment and we went aboard their ship. We flew to some kind of star. They put a spacesuit on me, told me many things and showed me around. They wanted to demonstrate that spaceships do exist.”