Hundreds of spectators attending the 41st Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, Norway, and countless others watching live TV coverage on Norway's state broadcaster, reacted with shock after Kurt Meier, 67, a Swiss-born member of the Seychelles team, collapsed on Thursday afternoon, during his final match of the marathon two-week contest. Despite immediate medical attention at the scene he died later in hospital.Shouldn't ESPN be all over this?
Hours later, a player from Uzbekistan who has not yet been named was found dead in his hotel room in central Tromsø. Norwegian police and the event's organisers said on Friday they were not treating the deaths as suspicious.
"We regard these as tragic but natural deaths," said Jarle Heitmann, a spokesman for the Chess Olympiad. "When so many people are gathered for such a long time, these things can happen."
The Olympiad involved 1,800 competitors from 174 countries, accompanied by more than 1,000 coaches, delegates and fans.
The event sees players compete in national teams over 11 rounds, often playing matches that last for up to six hours, and claims a worldwide online audience of tens of millions.
There were brief scenes of panic in the hall after Meier's collapse, when spectators reportedly mistook a defibrillator for a weapon. Play was briefly suspended before his death was marked with a minute's silence during the closing ceremony.
While the causes of the two men's deaths are still unknown, they will raise questions about the mental and physical stress that tournaments place on players.
Friday, August 15, 2014
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