In fact Kobuleti, if I have to be more exact.
I also have never heard of it before. Now I will spend the next 12 days here, being part of the Olympiad that takes place in Batumi, some 30km from here.
The only good thing about Kobuleti is the 5-star hotel we’re staying in. Even though at the very beginning we said we preferred less stellar accomodation in exchange for being actually in the city where the games are played. It wasn’t meant to be.
So what does this mean? Let me give you a backward timeline. The games start at 3pm. The trip from the hotel to the playing hall takes 45 minutes, if there is no traffic (often there is). The scheduled transport from the hotel leaves at 1.30pm. Lunch finishes at 1pm and starts at 11.30am. The board pairings are supposed to come out at 10am, but today they didn’t (they came out after 11am) and we will see what happens tomorrow. I will leave you do the math of how much time is left for preparation and rest.
The entrance to the playing hall is the players’ worst nightmare. Only 3 (!!!) entrances for each hall. Again, do your own math how many people have to go through those entrances and the frame scanners behind them. Just for a comparison sake, the USA team spent 50 (no typo, fifty) minutes waiting in the sun before entering the playing hall in Round 1.
Yes, Round 1 is the Olympiad’s worst. They told me today it was better. But what does better mean? It simply means that in order to let the people in faster, the whole idea of security checks loses its purpose because the only way to do it is to check less thoroughly. One player told me that when they asked her what she had in the bag (because it sent the scanner off) she told them she had some coins and without even checking the bag they let her in. I am sure this wasn’t the only case. There’s your “tight” security.
There was even more mess before Round 1, when people were supposed to pick up their accreditation cards. Instead of distributing these to the hotels where the players were staying (a very good practice we saw in Baku) they opened a small, 10m2 room for this purpose. There are 185 countries participating. The queues were so long that some people were waiting for more than 3 hours to get into that room.
For us the main problem is the travel. It reminds me of the famous opens in Cappelle la Grande. Staying in Dunkirk, playing in Cappelle, bus rides between the two. Not very professional, to say the least, but the wine was unlimited and free, so no surprise they were one of the most popular opens. Wines aside (though the Georgian ones are pretty good), it is simply not fair to place some teams at a disadvantage. While the majority arrive to the playing hall in 10 to 15 minutes, it takes us 45. The same is for going back after the game. It just isn’t fair.
Of course we will fight, we always fight. Perhaps especially hard when it is against the odds. Yet the bitterness is already here. For me this Olympiad won’t feel like the celebration I have always considered it to be.