Ilyumzhinov proposes chess center at Ground Zero

by ChessBase
9/17/2010 – There's a new player in the controversy over the plan to build an Islamic community center (a "Ground Zero mosque") just two blocks away from the location of the World Trade Center. The ever flamboyant Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has offered to buy the plot for ten million dollars – outbidding Donald Trump, who offered $7.5 million – and build a king-shaped chess center there instead. Press stories.

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Ilyumzhinov offers to build chess center instead of mosque in New York

Moscow, September 16, Interfax – The President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has offered to the Mayor of New York to buy a land plot, where the Islamic community plans to build a mosque, and to erect a world chess center there.

"Today I sent a letter to the mayor of New York, Mr. Bloomberg, and the owner of the land plot located not far from the former twin towers, offering to buy this land plot for $10 million and to erect a world chess center in this place," Ilyumzhinov told Interfax on Thursday. The New York Muslim community have proposed to build a mosque here, thus sparking a huge controversy and even a split within the American society. What I am proposing is not to divide people on the basis of religion and ethnicity, but to unite the public around such a great game as chess," he said.

"The decision to put forward such an initiative was backed by all members of the FIDE presidential board," Ilyumzhinov said. "If this offer is accepted, the world chess center will be built in the form of a chess figure, the king, of glass and concrete, which will decorate the city of New York," he said. "The world chess center will house an international chess academy, an international chess school for children, as well as halls for chess tournaments, where chess will be played round the clock," the FIDE president said.

Kalmykia Leader Proposes Chess Center at Ground Zero

"The amount of $10 million was set because last week American billionaire Donald Trump made a similar offer for $7.5 million, and we've decided to outbid him," Ilyumzhinov said, according to RIA-Novosti.

A fierce controversy is raging in the United States over plans to build an Islamic center at the site, located two blocks away from where the twin World Trade Center towers were destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Ilyumzhinov, who is Buddhist and claims to have been abducted by aliens, said FIDE would build a World Chess Center and a World Chess Academy if it secured the Manhattan site.

Ilyumzhinov will leave his post as Kalmykia's leader when his fourth term expires next month. In the meantime, he is fighting to hang on to his job at FIDE, a position he has held since 1995. He faces strong competition from former chess champion Anatoly Karpov in FIDE elections later this month.

Ilyumzhinov, a wealthy businessman and one of Russia's most flamboyant politicians, said in an interview broadcast on state television earlier this year that he was briefly abducted from his Moscow apartment by extraterrestrials and given a tour of their spacecraft in 1997.

Bloomberg's office had no immediate comment on Ilyumzhinov's proposal. Ilyumzhinov said FIDE was waiting for a reply.

The site of the planned Islamic Community Center

The "Ground Zero mosque" project, originally named "Cordoba House", is planned as a 13-story Islamic community center and mosque. It would include a 500-seat auditorium, a theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare area, bookstore, culinary school, art studio, food court, a September 11 memorial, and prayer space that could accommodate 1,000–2,000 people. Although the building would not be visible from the World Trade Center site, opponents of the project have said that building a mosque so close to Ground Zero is offensive since the hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks were Islamic terrorists.

An architect's drawing of the Islamic Community Center

This is the existing 1850s building it would replace

The building in question is located at 45-47 Park Place in Lower Manhattan. It is owned by Egyptian businessman Hashim Elzanaty, who bought it for 4.8 million dollars wanted to sell for a profit. The site is just two blocks from "Ground Zero", where the World Trade Center stood. We reported on its destruction at the time.

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Kirsan's Letter to Bloomberg

September 14, 2010

Michael Bloomberg
One Centre Street, Manhattan
New York, 10038

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

The entire world is following the controversy that has arisen over the possible construction of a mosque near the site of the tragic events of Sept, 11, 2001. This issue has divided society in the United States and across the world, and its repercussions are global.

I believe that religious conflicts are extremely dangerous in complex times such as ours. As president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), and as a person who has always supported interreligious understanding, I propose the construction of an International Chess Center at the suggested site of the mosque.

Chess is a unique and wise game. It came to the West from the East, unites every country, and it has affinities with every religion equally. My dream as president of FIDE is that chess becomes the only "battlefield" between East and West. Perhaps this is not yet possible, but we will do all we can to ease tensions. At the International Chess Center, which will be erected in the immediate vicinity of the World Trade Center, there will be a free chess school for children, national and international tournaments, and other educational and charitable activities. The Center will also hold annual memorial tournaments to benefit families of victims of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

We look forward to receiving your support, and hope that this proposal will prove the optimal solution and resolve a controversy that has caused such disquiet across the world.

On behalf of FIDE, I am writing to Mr. Hisham Elzanaly, owner of the property under discussion, with a proposal to buy the property for the construction of the International Chess Center.

Yours sincerely

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
President, FIDE

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