Pestaño: Chess in the Olympics
Thursday, July 23, 2015
By FRANK ‘BOY’ PESTAÑO
EVER since I can recall, there have been several attempts to include chess in the Olympics. This started just after the last world war but the IOC has always stated that chess is not a sport.
It does not fit in the Olympic Motto of “Faster, higher, stronger!”
Another factor is the desire not to increase the size of the Games, since that puts additional burdens on host cities. So the general trend is to reduce the number of events, not increase them. For example, baseball has been dropped.
It is also pointed out that if you include mind games, then bridge, scrabble, poker and Go should also be recognized. These are not sports but games. What is the difference between a sport and a game? And what qualifies a sport to be an Olympic sport? Is it all just a question of semantics?
Finally, there already is a Chess Olympiad, held since 1924.
Most would agree that chess as a sport is a grey area. But the hybrid sport chess-boxing is certainly a sport so chess can enter into this category. The WCBO (World Chess Boxing Orgnization) is lobbying the International Olympic Committee to include chess-boxing as an Olympic event within the next decade.
The most active Fide president who was hoping that chess would be included was Filipino Florencio Campomanes in the 80s and 90s. Now his replacement Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has pressed the case harder.
Kirsan just recently visited South Korea, the host of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, and met Choi Moon-soon, the governor of Gangwon and the president of the Organizing Committee of Games 2018 in Pyeongchang. The meeting was organized in the presence of the Korean Chess Federation and its president Hyun In Suk.
Following up on the recent successful meeting with the IOC President Thomas Bach, Ilyumzhinov informed the governor about the minimal requirements needed for chess competition.
“Chess does not require the construction of separate infrastructure with its high costs and is notable for its organizational flexibility. At the same time, it can attract the attention of a very large audience, especially foreigners. This makes it very important for the local tourism industry.”
Choi Moon-soon was obviously pleased with the presentation and as the head of the Organizing Committee of the Winter Olympic Games 2018 invited Fide to participate in the Games as a demonstration sport.
Kirsan said “I am happy that the negotiations with the IOC were successfully completed. I think this is a victory. All new Olympic sports were first included in the status of exhibition. This is a required first step.”
So after being a demonstration sport, it will soon be regular in the Winter Games. The next step is the Summer Games, where chess really belongs.
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– GM Susan Polgar