The voice of Roland Wald of Denmark, a frequent and prominent commentator on Bridge Base Online’s Vugraph Internet broadcasts of important world bridge events, will not be heard during the Bali World Championships. The reason, Wald explains in an interview realized by Hanan Sher, is BBO’s decision not to allow commentators to discuss the absence from the Championships of the Israeli Women’s Team, which had qualified to play in the Venice Cup by finishing sixth last year in Dublin.
Hanan Sher: Some time ago, you said that you might not do BBO voice commentary on Bali, as your way of expressing displeasure with the exclusion of the Israeli women from the Venice Cup? Does that decision still stand?
Roland Wald: My initial reaction was to give it a miss. I am strongly against discrimination in any way, shape or form, and this is basically what this is. How can it be a World Championship, when Israel, who legitimately qualified for the event, can’t attend? Over the last couple of months, however, several friends tried to convince me that I would not punish the culprits, the WBF and Indonesian authorities, by staying away. The listeners would suffer, and they are innocent. I promised to think about it, and after the last chat with an American world champion, I decided to write an e-mail to the BBO management.
HS: What exactly did you propose to BBO?
Roland Wald: I asked if BBO would allow commentators to mention the facts regarding this issue. In a tactful manner, obviously, without the intention of offending anyone. I am not going to reveal the correspondence in detail, but the conclusion was that BBO commentators should not get involved. After that reply my stand was clear and justified in my opinion. I can’t be what I’m not. I can’t do vugraph commentary and at the same time pretend that nothing happened prior to the championships. I may be alone here, but that does not change anything. Hundreds of people on Bridgewinners, my Facebook timeline and Neapolitan Club have expressed sympathy with Israel, but they are just words. I am in a position to take action and boycott the event. My hope is that it may make an impression,when BBO’s most experienced commentator does not want to take part. It may not, but then at least I have shown solidarity with my friends in Israel, and that means a lot to me.
HS: What might you have said, if allowed to do so? Would you just mention that Israel wasn’t there, though it qualified, or would you go into the facts of the case?
Roland Wald: I would not have said “since light travels faster than sound, people appear bright until you hear them speak,” because that would have been rude. I do know what being ‘tactful’ is. Something to this effect perhaps: “Israel’s women qualified for these championships, but they are not in Bali due to political issues. In my opinion, which does not necessarily reflect the view of the BBO management, the WBF made a big mistake in the first place by awarding the championships to Indonesia. Later the WBF did not give Israel the assistance that was needed in order to overcome the various hurdles, not least regarding the visas, and most importantly the security aspect that is paramount for Israel. Let’s hope that this will never happen again.” I lost faith in bridge politicians many years ago. They are no different from other politicians, sadly. The championships will survive without me, I know, but it’s about time that someone, off air, tells the WBF that the way they have handled this is totally unacceptable for people living in civilized countries. It is discrimination bya federation whose motto is “Bridge for Peace”. This would have been extremely hilarious, if it had not been so sad.
‘Don’t spray bullets on the local merchant’s windows’
Uday Ivatury, CEO of Bridge Base Online, responds to Roland Wald’s withdrawal as a commentator.
“I won’t allow Vugraph to be used as a soapbox. Of course it is tempting to use the site as a megaphone, but that would be disruptive to our audience. Issues with the organization of the World Championship are better raised with the WBF and the various member NBOs.
The data shows that RW (Roland Wald) had long since decided to avoid participation as a ‘protest’ against the WBF. Nothing to do with BBO. More power to him.
Activism is usually a good thing. However, one must march on the seat of government, or in the public square, not through the local coffee shop. And one must be careful, when spraying bullets, to avoid the local merchant’s windows. It is possible that the merchant is not involved, and simply wants to stay out of the line of fire.”
Statements by Roland Wald and Uday Ivatury are presented without comment, in the interest of fair and open discussion of issues affecting the world of bridge.