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Chess Olympiad 2022: Pakistan Boycotts Event After India’s Kashmir Torch Relay

Chess Olympiad 2022: Pakistan has accused India of mixing politics with sports

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Pakistan has decided to withdraw its participation in the 2022 Chess Olympiad, which will be held in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, despite its contingent having already reached India. This move comes a week after India’s torch relay through Srinagar in Kashmir, which Pakistan view as an attempt to amalgamate sports and politics.

The upcoming edition will be the very first instance of India hosting the Chess Olympiad, and the first in Asia since the 1986 edition, which was staged in the United Arab Emirates. The torch relay, which sparked a major debate, started on 19 July, with the International Chess Federation (FIDE) President Arkady Dvorkovich handing over the torch to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

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The torch will travel through 75 cities across a span of 40 days before eventually reaching its final destination, Chennai. On July 21, the relay passed through Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir – something that the Pakistani contingent openly criticized, accusing hosts India of bringing politics into the game.

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In an official statement, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said “Pakistan condemns India’s mischievous attempt to mix politics with sports. As a protest, Pakistan has decided not to participate in the 44th Chess Olympiad and will also raise the matter with the International Chess Federation at the highest level,”

India Calls Pakistan’s Withdrawal ‘Surprising'

India, however, was quick in responding to Pakistan’s withdrawal. The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Arindam Bagchi gave a statement during a press briefing on 28 July, where he said “It is surprising that Pakistan has taken a decision not to participate in Chess Olympiad even after their team reached India.”

As for the competition, it will be held from 28 July to 10 August. India is eleventh on the list of the overall team rankings, having won one gold medal and two bronze medals in the past. Among the currently active teams, Russia has the best record in this competition, but they will not compete this time around, after being suspended from all FIDE competitions owing to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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