The 52nd European Bridge team championship was held in late June in Opatija, an event organised by the ‘Opatija’ Bridge sports Club under the direction of Goran and Branka Grgurić, fans of this intellectually demanding card game.
Today, millions of people worldwide play bridge, and this year it brought together 85 teams from 38 countries around the world to the championship at Opatija. Participating teams from the national bridge federations came from all over Europe, from Greece, Spain and Portugal to the Scandinavian countries, the Faroe Islands and as far as Iceland, Turkey, Israel and Lebanon. More than 850 people stayed for the 12 days of the event – team members, representatives of national associations and domestic and foreign personnel and escorts.
“The initiator was the ‘Opatija’ Bridge sports club, starting out with the organisation of our own championships and then bigger and more important international championships in co-operation with the European Bridge League and the World Bridge Federation,” said Goran Grgurić. “Our small club, with only thirty members but with our serious and professional approach to the organisation of championships, managed to gain a reputation as a great organiser who could also be entrusted with the organisation of large events like this. But without the support of the City of Opatija, Primorje-Goranski county and the Croatian bridge association it would not be possible to organise the large bridge events we have organised so far.”
Competitive bridge is divided into seven regional zones across the world, comprising a total of 124 national bridge associations with over one million registered players and each zone organising regional competitions. Most players are registered in Europe and North America, but bridge is also rapidly expanding in South-East Asia, primarily due to the introduction of bridge in primary schools in China and India. In Europe team and doubles championships are organized alternately every year, as well as the annual Youth Championship in Bridge. On a global level some form of world championships is organised every year: in 2013 it was held in Bali, 2014 in China and in 2015 it will be organised in India.
Opatija won over Madrid
The candidacy of Opatija for the European team championship in Bridge became possible only after the construction of a new sports hall, “Marino Cvetkovic”, because for events at this level a standard of 15m2 per gaming table is required. For this championship there were two candidates: Madrid and Opatija. After almost a year of effort Madrid withdrew, which in August 2013 left Opatija to be entrusted to host the event.
[pullquote]The newly opened Hotel Royal ****, owned by Millennium hotels, will certainly attract many Bridge players to Opatija, as well as chess, sudoku and other similar games. In fact, the hotel, the largest tourism investment this year marking 170 years of organised tourism in Opatija, is designed as a meeting place for lovers of thought games.
Hotel Royal is located along the famous Lungo mare promenade and has 54 luxury rooms and suites. Next to the hotel reception is the Royal Club Café, with a library and tables for popular thinking games. On the lower floor is the Cafe Mahler, which was named after Julius Mahler, the first owner of the villa where the Royal hotel is today located. The café with a terrace is located next to the Lungo mare and its offer consists of the homemade cakes and pastries of the Millennium hotels.With the renovation of this hotel Opatija gets another large, modern conference hall. The Royal hall, which can accommodate up to 1,000 guests, is ideal for various corporate events, shows, concerts, gala dinners and weddings.[/pullquote]
The opening ceremony was organised in the crowded Crystal Hall of the Hotel Kvarner, with the Croatian President Ivo Josipović in attendance. During the championships a series of accompanying events were planned: the Tourist Boards of Opatija and Primorje-Goransko County organised trips for participants to the surroundings of Opatija. The annual conference of the European Bridge League and a gala dinner of its representatives was also held, as well as the meeting of the Executive Committee of the World Bridge Federation, with members coming from all over the world.
Thanks to the championships about 12,000 overnight stays in hotels and private accommodation were recorded over the ten days. It is also known that bridge players are good spenders, spending about 30% more than other resort guests. Participant feedback indicated their satisfaction with hotels, restaurants, shops, and also the hospitality of the people, as well as the general tidiness and cleanliness.
The complete event organisation was hindered somewhat by the transport infrastructure of Opatija, with most of the guests arriving at airports across the region: Treviso, Venice, Trieste, Pula, Rijeka/Krk, Ljubljana and Zagreb. A larger number of flights from major European centres to the Rijeka/Krk airport would greatly assist in event organisation and would help negotiations with foreign organisers.
“We started out with smaller events, tournaments attracting players from the region – Zagreb, Rijeka, Trieste, Udine – and in just a few years we have held a significant and rare series of international events that could not be materialized by any of the worldwide destinations,” said Goran Grgurić, who was recognised as a valuable organiser of major events and was entrusted with the organisation of this one that brought benefits to the entire destination and also to the reputation of Croatia. “This remarkable number of championships proves our good organisational skills, a commitment to the undertaken tasks and a desire to help all bridge players who come to Opatija. We are glad that we have gained friends worldwide that we can now consider part of our great family, and have made Opatija a recognisable bridge destination. Our next goal is to organise the European doubles Championships in 2017 and the World Bridge Cup.”