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Monday, September 27, 2021

In niche sport, India hope to bridge gap

The two-week tourney begins in Chennai on September 26. The World Team Championship are contested every alternate years.

Written by Vishal Menon | New Delhi |
Updated: August 20, 2015 2:24:50 am

There was a certain sense of sophistication and grace that Omar Sharif, the great Egyptian movie star of the 1960s, brought to his roles. Be it in Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago or Funny Girl, there was a sense of exoticism and diversity that were his watchwords in his career that spanned over thirty years.

There was another, rather unknown aspect of his personality that was hitherto unknown – his unblemished reputation as a bridge player of outstanding repute.

Now, more than a month after his death, the debonair Egyptian actor was remembered, far away at a plush five-star hotel in New Delhi, albiet, with a touch of nostalgia.

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Kiran Nadar, an acclaimed international bridge player and a philanthropist, recalled her first brush with the debonair superstar – in London at an international bridge tourney some twenty years ago.

“I watched him play at the Bridge Club in London, where he was a regular for quite some time. He played with a lot of very famous personalities there,” she quips.

“I didn’t interact with him because he was such a big star, but what I vividly remember about him is his trademark dinner jacket and his bow tie. He used to wear a dinner jacket and had a bow tie. He was an extremely flamboyant personality,” Kiran adds.

Celebrity followers

Omar Sharif is not the only big celebrity Kiran has seen endorsing a sport like bridge with such unbridled passion. Billionaire investors with a penchant for philantrophy – Warren Buffet and Bill Gates – were the other two to endorse this sport.

Kiran has played with the investor-duo in the USA more than a decade back, but concedes that it was philanthropy which helped them bond in the years to come.

Kiran is in Delhi to promote the World Bridge Championship, which India will be hosting for the first time. The two-week tourney begins in Chennai on September 26. The World Team Championship are contested every alternate years. The 2013 edition of the event took place in Bali.

There are three main events, the World Team Championships for national teams in three flights: Open, Women, and Seniors. Those are commonly called Bermuda Bowl, Venice Cup, and d’Orsi Senior Bowl after the trophies awarded to the winners.

Bridge is by and large considered a very niche sport in the country and Kiran hopes the sport will get a much needed fillip here in India after it managed to garner the hosting rights this year.

“Obviously, if Omar Sharif was alive today, we might have approached him to become our brand ambassador, but on a serious note, we hope this event helps us increase the footprints of a relatively unknown sport like bridge in the country. As a sport it is really more stimulating than chess so I really don’t see a reason why it cannot be popularised amongst kids,” Kiran explains.\

Going forward, Kiran wants to popularise “bridge education” in schools so that more kids can get acclimatised with the sport. For this, the Tamil Nadu Bridge Association has tied up with 20 schools across Tamil Nadu and the Bridge Federation of India has tied up with another 20 schools across Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

“It is a small step, but one in the right direction. It may still be considered a nascent sport in India but we must take a leaf from China. The sport has really become popular there with its induction at primary schools,” she adds.

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