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Should Chess Be An Olympic Sport?

The 2016 Summer Olympics are finally under wrap. But with every end comes a new beginning, and plans for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo are already underway.

Chess and Bridge are among 26 sports that have applied for inclusion in the next Olympics. Yep that’s right. Imagine the slow gentle hum of harnessed human brain power. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) already recognises chess as a sport, the question is whether or not it will be accepted by 2020. Should it?

The chances of mind sports being admitted into the Olympic Games, as soon as 2020, may be slim, but the idea isn’t as absurd as you might think. In the past, many games that received the official nod from the IOC have been controversial and sometimes bewildering. Rhythmic gymnastics is considered a competitive Olympic sport, but ballroom dancing isn’t. Handball and badminton are part of the program, yet rugby and squash don’t make the cut. Why?

In ancient times, both cultural and mental activity was present in the Olympics. These included contests in music, theatre, poetry and other arts. Even until the Second World War, there were competitions that rewarded the mental efforts of people in the same manner they rewarded physical efforts. But since Chess is very much attributed to a nerdy minority, the likelihood of mind sports dominating the Olympic Games is sadly low. It’s not so much as a test of skill as it is a test of what’s popular, which says more about our culture than it does about the sport itself.

While the this year’s two-week event featured amazing athletic achievements, spectacular shows of teamwork, touching personal narratives and inspiring examples of hard work paying off, we have also witnessed a multitude of disappointments and controversies, so much so that a new twitter hashtag became necessary #OlympicProblemsIn5Words. Apart from contaminated sewage water to washed up body parts, the event was sadly also tainted by a seemingly constant stream of examples of the ways in which race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and even body types shape how people are treated, who’s celebrated, and who’s scorned, who’s included and who’s left out.

The fundamental principles behind the Olympics are based on the celebration of both body and mind, explicitly joining sport with culture and education. It gives us a chance to celebrate our shared humanity. But given the recent controversies surround Rio, clearly this is something we have yet to master. Perhaps the addition of chess as a sport will mark a turn in our attitude towards such inclusion.

By Victoria Ticha 



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