Once every four years, is not only how often a new Olympic Game event occurs, but is also how often the same question comes into play: Should chess be an olympic sport? While debate around the topic is pretty hot, there is quite a bit of banter arguing both yes and no. But, before we go into the arguments themselves, I beg the question of: What defines an olympic sport, anyway?
Well, oddly enough, chess isn’t the only sport that hasn’t yet made the cut. It seems almost as if the criteria is arbitrary, holding no real requirements. For example, while rhythmic gymnastics is considered to be an Olympic sport, ballroom dancing, which is also competitive and active, is not. Handball and badminton have also made the cut, yet rugby and squash are not considered to be Olympic sports. So, then who and what determines what makes the cut or not?
A lot of it pertains to the headache of adding new sports to the Games, partially because of the ridiculous size of the event itself. It’s been reported that the Olympic Games are already so big, that a multitude of cities can’t even accommodate them. Therefore, in recent years, the number of sports allowed to be part of the Games has been limited, in order to reduce the amount of people each one would bring. A plan of implementing a regular review process, in order to avoid stretching the list of Olympic sports, has been created. Based on solid technical analyses, as well as nit-picky criteria, new sports are considered, but often don’t meet the requirements, and are not added. Chess is one of them.
Currently, the element of rich, cultural sports and mentally stimulating activities are nonexistent in the Olympic Games. During ancient times, the Olympic Games included competitions in fields such as music, theater, poetry and other humanities and arts. In fact, until World War II, there were competitions that recognized and gave rewards to the mental efforts of people identically to how physical efforts were treated. In turn, chess would be a great way to introduce this missing component of what once was an integral aspect of the Games.
In 2012, both bridge and chess players Competed in the first World Mind Sports Games in a stadium quite similar to those of international sports: The National Convention Center in Beijing, where a majority of the Olympic Games took place that year. Over 3,000 competitors from at least 150 countries attended and competed in the Games for awards in chess, bridge, checkers, and since it was in Beijing, a Chinese version of chess was also showcased. The Mind Games managed to show the world that a considerable amount of determination, energy, effort, and perseverance is required to be successful in these sports, and they also have the ability to bring competition, as well as a genuine sense of victory, like any other physical sport can.
So, in short, chess should absolutely be included as an Olympic sport- and for good. Not only do the mind games test a person’s ability to concentrate and exude a ridiculous amount of effort, despite immense pressure, but they also used to be a central part of what the Olympics used to be, which was an event that gathered people together from all over the world. People bond over sports, that’s for sure. However, it’s also important to be inclusive of other types of sports, especially the less conventional ones, that have a solid fan base. Not only is chess big in Asia, but it is a massive aspect of many Eastern European cultures. It’s one of the oldest games to still be played, and therefore, deserves the utmost amount of respect, starting with being considered an Olympic sport.