Hein Verbruggen

The opening ceremony of the SportAccord World Mind Games was held in the Convention Hall at the Beijing International Conference Center, hosted by Liu Jingmin, Deputy Director of the Committee of Education, Science, Health and Sports, which operates within China’s CPPCC National Committee. At 6:30 p.m. a selection of participating mind athletes from the five disciplines of bridge, chess, draughts, go, and xiangqi paraded onto the stage. The flags of the People’s Republic of China and SportAccord were hoisted to flutter vigorously in an artificial breeze, anthems were played, and the attending athletes, officials, staff, and guests were treated to a succession of speeches. Like the addresses at the morning press conference, these stressed the educational, cultural, and social benefits of mind games. Perhaps the key remark was delivered by SportAccord president Hein Verbruggen: ‘Mind sports are deeply rooted in Chinese culture.’ For the benefit of non-English speakers, his speech was translated into Chinese text displayed on a large raised screen, and the three Chinese speeches were similarly translated into English text.

Banquet at the Beijing Continental Grand Hotel

The speeches were followed by the athletes’ oath and the referees’ oath, which brought the proceedings to 7:00. The rest of the ceremony was a magnificent arts performance. It included a martial arts dance that looked rather like classical ballet, an instrumental performance by the Girls’ Crystal Band in which the eight girls wielded their traditional Chinese instruments in much the style of a 1920’s jazz band, an athletic street dance with a chessboard theme that sent the dancers’ neckties and shirttails flying, a Peking Opera performance with a contract bridge theme and much crashing of gongs and cymbals, and then a grand finale with all groups taking the stage. Each performance was preceded by an elaborate sand painting display by Gao Zanmin.
And this performance left the athletes, officials, staff, and guests in just the right mood for the sumptuous Chinese banquet that followed at the adjoining Beijing Continental Grand Hotel.

– James Davies

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