Judy Kay-Wolff

THE BALI BROUHAHA

Though I have never visited the Indonesian island of Bali, I have always envisioned its legendary beauty as a tourist attraction.  Recently, those far off visions have been darkened by reading a blog called Banned in Bali – regarding the upcoming WBF championships scheduled to be held there in September of this year – a shade over two months away.   Please note what you are about to read is all hearsay (not official) as seen through the eyes of another bridge blog site.   Its contributors are a mixture of universal views (some erudite and well intended – others not so erudite and not so well intended; some biased – others prejudiced).  Everyone speaks his or her mind – some respectfully – others not so! 

The introduction of the subject from an Israeli:

“The Israeli women’s team qualified for Bali by finishing 6th in the European championships.  Indonesia doesn’t recognize Israel, and wouldn’t issue any visas there. It also refused to even discuss the security arrangements for the Israeli team.  Rather than intervene, the World Bridge Federation asked Israel to withdraw if it couldn’t arrange travel to the tournament.  Israel had to withdraw …”

I read about it the first time yesterday and was saddened to hear the protection of human life was the focal point.  It is imperative you understand I am not taking a position either way.   However, the decision is a matter of vital bridge importance.  Bali was the original site of the 2001 Bermuda Bowl to be held a month or so after 911, but because of so much unrest, it was moved to Paris which proved to be quite successful and relieved the fears of many participants (who might not have attended if the WBF stood firm on the original site).   Much money was lost by the generous sponsors because of the abrupt change of venue and the WBF promised they would return again one day and make it up to them.  Apparently, that day has come (but not without challenge)!

The issues raised in the referenced blog are (1) a repeat of the troublesome site selection;  (2) refusal (or difficulty) of the Israelis to obtain visas; and (3) avoidance by the host officials to approach the subject of the imperative security protection arrangements.

There are enough hurdles and high fences to scale in the game itself and I find it so sad that the safety factor has once again reared its ugly head.


15 Comments

SamJuly 4th, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Very sad indeed that situations like these interfere with our wonderful game. Whatever happened to the theory of Bridge for Peace .. or something of that sort?

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 4th, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Sam:

I knew of a similar 1985 situation involving the WBF and again in Istanbul which I attended with Bobby a few years ago. I was reluctant to go to Turkey and was resigned to stay within the confines of the hotel. Surprisingly, my resolve lifted when I saw many of the players’ wives returning with clusters of lovely jewelry purchased at a nearby bazaar. How fast my concerns changed and I became a daily regular!

Seriously, the site selection is determined many years in advance and this ever-changing world is unpredictable. With so many countries involved, it is no easy task to envision what will happen politically down the road. Bridge for Peace is a wonderful slogan — but easier said than done. I can see it from both levels of the totem pole. There is no simple solution.

BobJuly 4th, 2013 at 10:43 pm

I tracked down the subject site and found some of the remarks downright sarcastic and uncalled for.
However, it is not for me to teach writers manners.

Bob

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 4th, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Bob:

I agree with you. It is a serious subject (possibly life threatening) but some people just like to see their names in print.

Jane AJuly 5th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

As I have posted a number of times in the past, I am not familiar with the workings of the upper echelons of the bridge world, but it seems a bit strange to me that locations with potential/ known danger continue to be chosen as playing sites. Granted, the sites are chosen years in advance, but even then, there are some sites that should not ever be considered. With so many other wonderful locations in this vast world of ours, there are better and safer locations than Bali.

Did Bali used to be called Burma? My parents went to Burma for a vacation many years ago. My mom was Jewish. (She died almost 30 years ago) They said that although it was a beautiful country, it was such an oppressed society that they would never go again. Mom said that is was obvious that women were treated poorly and given no respect at all. And this was well before 9-11 and the other terrorist events. Such a shame, isn’t it?

Gary MugfordJuly 5th, 2013 at 6:33 pm

To Jane A,

No, the ancient country of Burma is now called Myanmar and has an extremely totalitarian military ruling group. Bali is in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world. Ergo, the issue with people of the Jewish faith. That said, MOST Indonesians would qualify as secular Muslims and it’s the pockets of radicals that make the news there … and make the country a powder keg. Bali was the spot where a famous terrorist attack took place at a disco.

As I understand it, security on the island has been enhanced to the degree that tourism to Bali has largely returned to pre-attack levels. The issue, as it always has been, is setting up a big target for whackos seeking to make the CNN News spotlight.

When I last presided over the World Championships (in Bal Harbour a century ago), I had to operate under ever-changing rules almost all dictated by two things: fear of press members somehow aiding their ‘home’ team and the issue of potential attacks against Jewish players and protests against China (which was relatively new on the world scene at the time). In fact, I ended up resigning over those ever-shifting rules that made some of my promises of access to the media lies.

The terrorist fears were fuelled by the fact that many, many players from all the countries, not just Israel, were Jewish. And that the year before, in Sao Paulo, Brazil if my memory serves me correctly, a fake TV crew had attempted access to the playing area and were only ‘caught’ when my predecessor down South had told them he was calling the station to confirm their ‘unexpected’ arrival. He/She even added the critical, “Sorry, we will have to have the station confirm who you are and describe each of you.” The crew disappeared while the PR rep was verifying (in fact, NOT verifying) their legitmacy.

I understood then, and still do now, that on-site issues with security is an issue for ANY multi-national event. And the higher the noteriety or fame of the participants, the higher the likelyhood whackos are going to do their religion harm by acting in a horrible misunderstanding of what their religion asks of them.

THAT said, all organizations that organize events world-wide, need absolute written assurances from the host country’s government (at the appopriate level) that alll participants will be welcome. And that written assurance must be updated yearly in the interim in cases where the event is scheduled years in advance. The first time the country with the possibility of ever-changing people in control, fails to re-ratify the agreement, the event MUST shift to another country. Issues such as religion, health (AIDS conferences) or sexuality have all induced countries to bar people after initially saying they would be allowed entrance and access. It’s not new, however misguided and ultimately proof of backwards sensibilities. So, accept the reality and work around it.

IF Bali accepts all, I would imagine it would be as great a host as, say Ankara was. Or Bal Harbour [G]. If the regime changes and minds change, accept it and move on. Paris is always nice, in the spring time or any other time of the year. Or Toronto, so you’all can come North and see me [G].

Steven GaynorJuly 5th, 2013 at 9:39 pm

If a country cannot get it together to accept all qualifiers they should not be allowed to hold the event. It also puts a lot of pressure on players (especially Jewish ones) from other countries who would consider, as a matter of principle, to boycott the event. However, that means turning down the possibly once-in-a-lifetime chance of playing for a world championship. It is horrible, no win, choice to give to anyone and the WBF is to blame for putting people in that situation.

If the WBF could not get a promise that all qualifiers would be welcome to attend they should not have scheduled the event here. They knew this would be a problem when the papers were signed.

Jane AJuly 5th, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Thanks for the information, Gary. Very interesting, and I appreciate the time you took to explain about Bali, Burma, and all points in between. Since bridge is so international, it was great to read about your experiences. I have been to Toronto, and I thought it was a great city. Some day, I hope to return. Two of my current partners are Canadian, so maybe we will all come to Toronto and meet up with you at some point.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 5th, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Hi Jane A, Gary and Steve:

I appreciate all of you piping in to contribute to the discussion on the Israeli situation and the site selection. There is no solution without ruffling feathers, but I think human lives should take precedence over stepping on toes. What could possibly supersede the safety of the players? Nothing I can think of!

With two months to go, it is a helluva situation and I see Alvin Levy, (a good friend of Bobby’s and mine) and WBF Rep from Zone 2 (our group) has stepped up to the plate. Go directly to the site and read all the controversial comments. Some of the interlopers are just plain irresponsible and vicious, making facetious remarks about the issue. Sure, what do they care. They are out of harm’s way. As someone pointed out, there are several Jewish individuals representing our zone — with possibly more to be added at the upcoming Trials.

PAULJuly 6th, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Judy:

I just checked that site again and it is getting uglier by the minute. I see what you mean about the sarcasm and biting remarks. Can’t their webmaster step in and do something about it — or do they just like it the way it is?

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 6th, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Hi Paul:

I have written to one of the owners of the site — and twenty-four hours have passed. I received no acknowledgement of receipt or any reply — so I guess we got our answer.

On this site, though not everyone agrees, at least civility prevails.

Robb GordonJuly 9th, 2013 at 1:18 pm

From Roland Wald on Bridge Winners:

“BREAKING NEWS. The board of the Indonesian Bridge Federation decided tonight (local time) that Israel is out and Sweden is in. That decision has been approved by the WBF according to Arifin Halim in Jakarta. Good news for some, sad for others, and indifferent for the rest. Personally, I am appalled. I simply cannot take the WBF seriously any more. “Bridge for Peace”?? What a load of rubbish!”

What a joke the WBF has become! How sad that there is no courage nor is there integrity in this organization. It wasn’t always that way in the past.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 10th, 2013 at 5:03 am

Robb:

In a way, I am glad is it over. I am not saying I agree with the decision. In fact, I was shocked with the resolution but I really don’t think we yet know all the facts.

The constant chatter, sarcasm, vitriol, biting jibes and personal issues were enough to make one regurgitate. Though Bridge Winners tried to control their mouths, computers and Ipads, they were hell bent on continually espousing their views — biased or unbiased, objective and subjective — but I am sure we have not heard the last of it.

Thank heavens our site treats people with respect. I have never seen anything as offensive as this last week on BW about Bali, Israel and the WBF.

Steven GaynorJuly 10th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I agree with Robb, the whole situation is outrageous, and we Jews again take the punishment, but what else is new since that has been going on for the past 4000 years.

Maybe it is time for the ACBL to re-examine the relationship with the WBF and the increases in our dues that the WBF has made over the past 10 years or so.

Bobby WolffJuly 18th, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Hi Steven,

While I do not disagree one iota with your overall assessment, the re-examining of the USA’s involvement with the WBF is much more complicated than that.

What if our national organizations for tennis and golf (either, way down, tennis, or instead just going in the down direction, golf) would consider doing away with our international relationships with those world groups?

Methinks that doing that, or, more to the point, encouraging capitulation in world-wide bridge, would immediately reduce the positive electricity in the best of any worthwhile game or event (and top-level bridge certainly qualifies).

My guess, if we cut ties, is that bridge for perhaps 10 to 20 years would immediately become an exercise in “high card wins”, eventually coming to an end with hardly a whimper left on the radar to diagnose.

I hope you will agree with me that the game we know and love needs more care and love shown for its development rather than throwing it to the wolves.

Opps I used the wrong animal!

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