Worries over the state of preparations for the World Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk have recently made the headlines, but surely the strangest report appeared on the local Ugra Inform website. Their decision to transcribe the conversation during FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer’s inspection quite literally made a drama out of a crisis.
The opening ceremony of the World Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk is on the 20 September, and the imminent arrival of 160 teams in the Siberian town has put real pressure on the local infrastructure. As Mark Crowther reported at TWIC, FIDE’s inspection uncovered serious doubts as to whether the new hotel built for the event would be ready to operate in time. The Karpov campaign for the FIDE Presidency picked up on the story for their website, while Ilyumzhinov also admitted to serious concerns: “I do not want to exaggerate the situation and talk about a catastrophe, but the situation is alarming.”
The article by Yulia Lukina and Evgeny Roshkov at Ugra Inform (recommended by “Alien” in the comments here, and also linked to in the article at the Karpov website) reports on Israel Gelfer inspecting the hotel together with the organisers and, it seems, journalists. Despite the importance of FIDE’s verdict, the authors point out that the general tone of the conversation was more like a drama “with a considerable amount of comedy”. People talk at cross purposes, the organisers make little attempt to hide a furious argument, and Gelfer strives to establish some simple truths, while also claiming the winnings from a wager (recalling Chuck Norris’ wager with Ilyumzhinov before the 1998 Olympiad in Elista).
I’ve translated the full dialogue, slightly abbreviated the “stage directions”, and added a “cast list”. Photos of the hotel are taken from this report.
Israel Gelfer – FIDE Vice President, making a repeat inspection of the “Olympic” Hotel built for the Olympiad
Nikolai Bondarev – Executive Director of the Organizing Committee
Alexander Gerber – Director of the Centre for Promoting the Olympiad
Andrey Cheremnykh – Representative of the General Contractor for the Construction
Manager – unnamed hotel manager
Gerber: There’s only one real problem: Mr Bondarev hasn’t yet concluded a contract with the service company, “New Hotel”, which should allocate people and service the building. There are no other problems. Everything’s going according to plan. The landscaping should be finished on time. Let’s now go and see the rooms.
Gelfer: Last time you said that the hotel would be opened on the 1 August.
Gerber: Yes, it’ll be opened on the 1 August. But it won’t yet operate, as the contract for services hasn’t been signed.
Bondarev: First of all you should finish it and then provide a normal contract! You’re giving us phoney contracts, dividing up other people’s property! First hand it over for use! When it’s ready for operation, then we can sign a contract.
Gerber: Let’s have a look at the first floor and go up to the rooms.
[They walk up a flight of stairs as the lift is being used for furniture] On the third floor the delegation looked around one of the rooms. The walls were decorated, the floor carpeted, the ceiling and walls had energy-efficient lights installed. There was already furniture in the room, but it hadn’t yet been positioned. Israel Gelfer was satisfied with the room.
Gerber: All that’s left is to put up a mirror and shelves, turn on the electricity and check the water. The manager can tell you about it himself.
Manager: Well, what’s there to say? Everything will be ready by the 20 August… It could already be handed over for operation even now.
Bondarev: There’s a lot of red tape involved, and the handover itself… What does it mean “to hand over”? I come here and you sign everything over to me, yes?
Gerber: In the agreement it’s written that it’ll be handed over on the 25 August.
Bondarev: OK then, you hand it over, I’ll sign.
Gelfer: And where’s that man I had the wager with about them not managing to finish the work by the 15 August?
Gerber: That was Cheremnykh, Andrey Vladimirovich. The hotel will be handed over by the 15 August, and it’ll be possible to stay here. If Bondarev signs an agreement for us about services…
Gelfer: I don’t know you all, I simply had a wager with a friend. He lost, so let him give me the money!
Gerber: Why did he lose? What’s the date today?
Gelfer: Today’s the 22 July.
Gerber: But we’ve already agreed that the wager will continue until the 15 August… Then we’ll decide who lost, and who didn’t.
Gelfer: OK, but as I understand it, the hotel’s still not ready?
Manager: Why? It’ll be ready, but no-one’s saying that it’ll operate.
Gelfer: Explain that. On the 15 August I can take a suite and stay here?!
Gerber: Yes. Absolutely, yes! You could even move in now!
Gelfer: No! No! I want to have a telephone, a television, for the reception to operate…
Gerber: I’ll explain that. In order to organise all the logistics – the food, supplies – from milk to meat, it’s essential to agree a contract. Money’s needed, money!
Gelfer: OK, so that’s clear. The land outside – the roads, the parking places and so on – will be ready by the 15 August?
(in chorus) Yes, yes, it should all be ready.
Gelfer: Yesterday I heard that there are still some problems and therefore, when I come the next time – and that’ll be the 25 August – I want to see with my own eyes that the hotel’s ready.
Gerber: The 25 August?
Gelfer: The 25 August.
Gerber: On the 25 August we’ll have everything ready here. God willing. The main builder says that by that date he’ll have prepared the area – landscaped it, there’ll be grass growing, trees. Everything will be clean and beautiful. So the hotel will operate.
Gelfer: At the end of August the main arbiters of the event will have a meeting in Khanty-Mansiysk. Can they stay in this hotel?
Gerber: How many of them are there?
Gelfer: Four to five people.
Gerber: Of course they can! Though catering won’t yet have been organised.
Gelfer: Aaah! No food, no TV! No, we want a genuine hotel!
Gerber: I’ll say it again: we still haven’t concluded a contract with a service company to take care of all that.
Bondarev: I’ll conclude a contract with a hotel, and not with something half-finished! So when the complex is ready, then we’ll sign.
Israel Gelfer looks out the window, observing the landscape stretching out behind the “Olympic” hotel – bare, barren ground, the work on the landscaping of which hasn’t even begun.
Gelfer: Mr Gerber, everything that I see out of the window, will it also be landscaped?
Gerber: Of course! The land will be covered by asphalt and the workers will put down paving. There’ll be parking for cars. Everything will be ready on time.
Gelfer: I was working out how many people it’ll be possible to house here – there are 800 and something rooms, right?
Gerber: 846 rooms.
Gelfer: Some single, some double, a few triples. And we can house 1300-1400 people in them. But I heard about two problems from Mr Bondarev. Firstly, a bureaucratic one: FIDE delegates can’t be given suites, as it hasn’t been written into the contract with the Federation. I can resolve that problem. I’ll phone Kirsan and sort it out. Secondly, the hotel can house 1600 people, while the kitchen at any one time can provide for only 1200-1300… Is that right?
Gerber: Yes, 1200 people can simultaneously sit at the tables and chairs.
Gelfer: OK. Then please explain something for me: will it be possible to accommodate a higher number of people in the hotel? Meaning 1600.
Gerber: You can decide for yourself. Why have I been so blunt today in posing the question about our not concluding a contract with a service company? Because we still haven’t worked out the logistics for organising catering. In order to work them out we need to sign agreements with all the food suppliers: for milk, meat, eggs, fruit and so on. It’s long, painstaking work. If we sign the contract after handing over the hotel – i.e. the 1 September, then 20 days won’t be enough for us to organise the logistics and guarantee catering for so many people at the same time. I’ve been talking about that for a long time.
Bondarev: What have logistics and Bondarev got to do with it?
Gerber: Here’s what… Give me the money!
Bondarev: Take it!
Gelfer: Ok, in that case here’s what we’ll do. Today’s the 22nd. Tomorrow I’m going to talk to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. In the evening he’ll phone Medvedev. On Saturday Medvedev will phone the governor. And, I think, next week you’ll conclude the contract. Bondarev will get his money and can sign a contract for services. But a question still arises – even then will we be able to house 1600 people here?
Suddenly Andrey Cheremnykh appears – the representative of the general contractor for the construction.
Gerber: Here’s that man you had the wager with!
Gelfer: Give me my money! You lost!
The story of the wager, of course, amuses everyone – those gathered around laugh.
Cheremnykh: I don’t have any money! It’s not the 15 August yet, where’s the problem?
Gelfer: I’ll be able to take a suite here on the 15 August?
Cheremnykh: Yes, it’ll all be ready.
Gelfer: Will it be possible next week, if all the contracts are signed, to feed all the people who’ll be staying here?
Gerber: You mean 1600?
Cheremnykh: I can’t respond to that question right now as I’d have to discuss it with our partners. The problem is the kitchen – we didn’t plan on having to feed more than 1200 people. The hotel kitchen is based on 600, but it can feed 1200, as it’ll work in three shifts.
Gelfer: But you’ll provide that information when you talk with your partners and figure out what you need?
Cheremnykh: Well, not now. But it can be tomorrow.
Gelfer: I’m ready to talk with anyone – with Kirsan, with Medvedev, with Putin. But in two weeks the money must have been paid and the contract signed. And I ask once more – will it be possible to feed all of the participants, all 1600 people?
Gerber: You have to understand that at the moment the capacity of the kitchen is 600 people in one shift, and the capacity of the hall is to hold 1200 at any one time. Personally I don’t think that they’ll all go to the restaurant at the same time. So that feeding more than 1500 chess players is perfectly viable – it’ll all depend on the timetable we set up for catering. And I remind you once again that at the given moment we can’t conclude contracts with our partners for a catering company, the supply of products and all the rest.
Gelfer: That’s not a problem.
Cheremnykh: It’s a problem. I don’t have any money.
Gelfer: Money – that’s another problem. I want to know if it’s possible to feed so many people, even theoretically.
Gerber: Of course, it’s possible.
Gelfer: As for money, I’ll come to an arrangement. So then, the contract’s concluded, there’s money. People coming to eat at the same time – not a problem?
Cheremnykh: No, just not at the same time. Breakfast will take place over one and a half to two hours. In any case 1600 can’t all come at once.
Gelfer: OK, when people arrive on the first day we’ll ask them. Please can you write down when you’d prefer to have lunch – 12:30 or 13:30?
Here, rather abruptly, the drama ends, as the delegation apparently left to check on other venues. Though perhaps it’s only the end of Act I :)
8 responses to “Making a drama out of a crisis”
Why does the right side of each building look like an American flag?
Great. On a par with Dostoevsky’s more absurd passages. Everybody repeats everything, and nobody commits to anything.
For the first time in my life I am glad that I am not strong enough to play chess for my country…
Good translation! I read the original but missed the nuances. To me it sounds like some passages from Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita” — second grade freshness, etc.
I’ve been to meetings like this, everybody talks alot to cover up for the fact that they can not commit to anything, and one poor soul is trying time and again to force them.
But I have to admit this was almost pythonesque, it will be open, but will not be able to operate!
but what else can one expect from a president trying to move everything in chess to places you never heard of before?! What a lousy way to waste the money.