Organizers scramble to save Chess Olympiad

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UPDATED: Norway can boast the Chess World Champion in the form of star player Magnus Carlsen, but can’t seem to come up with the money to fund the upcoming Chess Olympiad in the northern city of Tromsø. Organizers were left scrambling on Wednesday to save the event from financial ruin. 

Just a day after mounting what the Norwegian chess federation claimed was its “best chess team ever”  for the Chess Olympiad, led by Carlsen, organizers got the bad news that the state government wasn’t allocating an extra NOK 15 million (USD 2.5) they claim they need in the government’s revised state budget.

The news got worse Wednesday afternoon when the state secretary for the Conservative Party, Knut Olav Åmås, said the chess officials had to be grateful for the NOK 75 million that the state already has guaranteed. “NOK 75 million is a lot of money,” Åmås told state broadcaster NRK. “It’s also NOK 5 million more than they asked for in the first place.”

Åmås was firm that “when a group gets money from the state, they have to mount an arrangement that fits within the framework.” The Chess Olympiad (Sjakk-OL) organizers (a company owned by Tromsø township and the chess federation, Norges Sjakkforbund)  won’t be getting any more state funding guarantees, he said.

Opposition parties in parliament can have some say, however, when the revised budget proposals come up for negotiation and a vote. Among them is the Liberal Party (Venstre), one of the government’s so-called “support parties,” whose deputy leader Ola Elvestuen supports additional funding for the Chess Olympiad. He told newspaper Aftenposten that he doesn’t think the organizers have poorly managed their money but rather that they met unexpected expenses in connection with a World Cup tournament last year. Elvestuen said there was “good reason” for the state to offer more support, and that his party, which can provide an important swing vote for the minority government, will make it a bargaining point in the budget negotiations.

The organizers still must try to drum up more money from sponsors or other sources. More than 2,000 participants from 181 countries are expected to travel to Tromsø for the Olympiad due to begin August 1. The local government owns 90 percent of the shares in the company formed to host the Chess Olympiad, with the federation owning the other 10 percent. Its chairman, Hans Olav Karde, said it was now in “a very difficult situation.”

newsinenglish.no staff