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FM Stojic: Arriving in Baku and Flying with Falcons

FM Stojic: Arriving in Baku and Flying with Falcons


Editor: Welcome to the first edition of Gardiner Chess’s latest blog! FM Dusan Stojic and WIM Alexandra Jule are currently over at the World Chess Olympiad where Alex is representing Australia in the women’s team for the first time. Dusan has started up a blog which we will re-post here with his permission, to keep everyone updated with events from Baku, Azerbaijan where the Olympiad is being held.


By Dusan Stojic.

The official arrival date for the Olympiad is Thursday 1 September (click here for Schedule), but Alex (below) and I arrived on Wednesday (yesterday), as did most of the Aussies.

WIM Jule

The Arduous Journey

We traveled most of the way with WIM Heather Richards (B1 for Aus Women’s team) and IM Richard Jones (B1 for the Welsh Open team). The flight from Sydney to Doha was quite draining – 14.5 hours, and sleep was hard to catch.

Doha Airport was very modern and impressive – certainly a lot has changed since I passed through last in 2010. The view of the city as we flew in was very obstructed by the morning dusty haze.

Smog Photo

What we had most trouble with was working out what the giant figurines in the children’s playgrounds were supposed to be. The positioning of the staircase (below, right) was interesting, designed for the children to climb up the figurine’s – ahem, abdomen…

Sculpture 1                       Sculpture 2

By far the most curious thing of the trip happened as we boarded our last plane from Doha to Baku. As we took our seats (scored an emergency exit row), we were shocked to see five men, in traditional Arabic white robes, proceed right next to all the passengers, and take their seats in the back of the plane – with their avian companions, each holding a falcon!
Falcon on Board                       Falcons Tarmac
Not one of the passengers, except us, batted an eyelid. We were assured by the Qatar Airways flight attendant that this is completely normal behaviour. The birds are bred in Qatar and be sold in the surrounding countries for hunting.



Finally, after some 36 hours in travel, we arrived in Baku! First impressions: a marvelous city, which combines tradition with modern architecture. Government buildings are all spectacular, and the visitor gets a sense of solemnity and grandeur being among these monuments (below left to right: Baku Olympic Stadium, Heydar Aliyev Sports Centre, Heydar Aliyev International Airport).

Baku Olympic Stadium Heydar Aliyev Sports Centre Heydar Aliyev Airport
We were driven in these Olympiad buses to the hotels, and we shared a ride with some players from delegations of Mozambique, Sudan and Botswana.
Olympiad Bus

Park Inn by Radisson

The Aussies are staying at the Park Inn( below left), a four-star hotel. There is a bit of a hierarchy for accommodation: the official website explicitly states that teams that have a higher average rating are the ones who get a better stay, and the FIDE officials are apparently in the famous Flame Towers. But in any case, there’s nothing to complain about for our hotel.

Park Inn Baku

At team dinner, Moulthun was the man of the hour, being Australia’s latest GM-elect. He won his last GM norm in style in Abu Dhabi the other day. Let’s hope that the great individual form of the Open players will carry over to the Olympiad!

This morning, we’ve had a stroll along the famous Boulevard, just outside our hotel. There were a lot of cleaners, sweeping pavements and making sure no unruly autumn leaves will ruin the picturesque scenery for the Olympiad participants. After all, none other than the Norwegian team is staying next door to us, in the Hilton Baku.
Also taking a morning stroll was none other than the legendary GM Alexey Shirov (below with Dusan) , now playing for his native Latvia (previously Spain). So my first Olympiad selfie was in order!
Shirov Selfie

That’s all for now, dear readers. I’ll blog daily in the mornings (Australian evenings). Games start 3 pm local time, 9 pm AEST. Round one on Friday.

Next up, the Opening Ceremony. Stay tuned!

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