2019 Rapid & Blitz WC underway
FIDE Continues to Flirt with Repressive Saudis
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Yemen and complete disregard for Human Rights. Women are treated like dogs, or worse. Criticism of the ruling Saudi family can get your head chopped off. Saudi Arabia ranks 172nd out of 180 countries with regards to press freedoms. Remember Khashoggi? Family members are still waiting for parts of his dismembered body to be found…
But the Saudi money is good. Often too good to turn down. The term ‘sportswashing‘ has become a popular term since 2015 when the Saudi leadership first decided to invest hundreds of billions of dollars into big time sports events, championships and exhibitions, all in a big public relations initiative to divert world attention away from daily Saudi reality.
FIDE has come cheap. Very cheap. Football teams, such as the 4 Spanish teams who will play in January in Saudi Arabia will receive upwards of $30,000,000. Then there is boxing: just Anthony Joshua’s fee to fight Andy Ruiz is northwards of 60,000,000 English pounds. How much will FIDE earn? The ball park figure is between 1 and 2 million dollars. That is cheap by Saudi standards!
But it would be a mistake to think that all chess players agree with what FIDE is doing walking hand in hand with Saudi Arabia. The story of the Spanish player Sabrina Vega being awarded a prize from Queen Sofia when she refused to participate in the first King Salman Rapid and Blitz Championship because of human rights abuses:
Needless to say that FIDE remained silent when Sabrina was honored by the Queen. But in this year’s edition of the King Salman event I notice that not one single Spanish women is participating.
Moving the event from Saudi Arabia to Russia has made FIDE’s support of the Kingdom a little more palatable, but no less controversial.