The Olympics take place at varying venues around the world every 4 years, well, when global pandemics don’t get involved, and encompass a wide range of sports with some being added and others removed over time.
Chess is not an Olympic sport right now but the International Chess Foundation (FIDE) has launched a campaign for chess to be included in the 2024 games in Paris. There is often confusion between the Olympics and the Chess Olympiad which are different events.
I have another article answering whether chess is a sport or not, to which I answer yes given the consideration the Olympic committee has given to chess for inclusion in future Olympic games events.
Chess at the Olympic Games
Chess was First Introduced to the Olympics in 1924
Chess has a little bit of history with the Olympic games because it was an exhibition sport at the 1924 Olympics held in Paris.
Because the inclusion into The Olympics proper didn’t happen, the first-ever unofficial chess Olympiad took place, also in Paris
In terms of the consideration of inclusion in Paris in 2024, Rapid chess and Blitz chess would be the most likely to be included in the decision is made.
The formats would be far more suited to a spectator sport than classic chess lasting potentially hours oper game. Although there is plenty of time.
Another consideration would be to organize Chess as a team event at The Olympics much like the biennial chess Olympiad
Professional Chess Players vs Amateur Chess Players
The reason chess was not accepted as a sport at the 1924 games was trouble with distinguishing between amateur players of the games and professionals who could earn a living wage from playing chess.
That would almost certainly be even more difficult to establish today perhaps, and then we have to consider how much of an audience draw chess might be for The Olympics if names such as Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, and Fabiano Caruana were unable to appear or win an Olympic medal due to business interests around chess.
They plainly make a great deal of money from playing chess and associated businesses based around it, and would they even be interested in playing chess in the Olympic Games?
There is much to consider.
Why Chess Should be in the Olympics
OK, so now we have to come up with why chess should be included as an Olympic sport at the Summer Games.
Arguments for Chess at the Olympics
Chess should be included because it is a challenging and strategic mind game for all involved even if not requiring physical fitness. It requires mental focus, concentration, and dexterity in addition to physical endurance which would be beneficial to inclusion at the Olympics in terms of broadening the demographics that can compete in games.
Faster versions of the game like Rapid or Blitz should be the focus given they are more watchable, and of course, The Olympics does have to appeal to both live and television audiences.
Chess is one of the most played sports in the entire world. Maybe not the most-watched, but an appearance at The Olympics for chess would certainly raise the profile of the sport.
Arguments against Chess at the Olympics
The main argument against Chess in the Olympics is because of its lack of physical demands.
Yes, chess players will argue that being seated for potentially a long time has its physical stresses, but sports featured at the Olympic games do tend to highlight the physical dexterity, power and control not really required to play a game of chess.
There is of course the perception that chess is not a sport. We can not argue that it is difficult to view chess as a ‘real’ sport, and the IOC recognizing FIDE presenting chess as a sport is not quite enough to convince a public who are not aware of the idiosyncrasies of the association, that real sport includes a game of chess.
What Would it Take to Have Chess at The Olympics?
The inclusion of a new sport into the Summer Olympic games rests on a wide range of factors, none of which would be specific to Chess itself, but are applied to ANY sport that wishes to campaign for inclusion.
There are 5 main factors which are then broken down further into in excess of 30 differing criteria.
A small selection of some of those criteria are
- Must be governed by and International Sports Federation
- Must comply with the Anti-doping codes and drugs testing
- Compliance with the Olympic charter
Some of the subcategories include
- How long the sport has existed
- What the global audience for the sport is
- How popular it is in the host country
- How costly would global broadcasting of the event be
As we can see, Chess can pretty much pass all of these with passing colors, and I am sure, is a little more popular around the world than Skateboarding, for instance. There is also the tenuous argument about the cap on the number of athletes taking part in the games, but that rule really affects every sport under consideration and chess is not a stand-out potential banana skin in that regard.
Outside of all of the ‘official’ stuff, there is still a little influence from outside the IOC in that the host city itself can dictate if they have the venue to support the event.
In Paris, in 2024 we will see breakdancing make its Olympic debut as a sport, it sounds crazy at first mention, but if we think about it, the Winter Olympics also have dancing competitions, with Ice-dancing and all. Chess on ice anyone?
I don’t think chess would seem out of place at the Olympics. I can understand the likes of Pigeon-shooting no longer being considered, although former Olympic event, Tug-o-war would still be an ace event I’d certainly tune in for.
Let’s hope that one day we might see chess as an Olympic sport and be able to watch the very best players, amateur or professional battling it out around the world every four years.
Olympics vs Olympiad – If chess were included in the Olympics what would happen to the Chess Olympiad?
The Chess Olympiad was created unofficially in 1924 through the failure of becoming an Olympic sport. FIDE was formed on the final day of the event and the first official Olympiad took place 3 years later.
What is the chess Olympiad?
A chess Olympiad is a huge event organized by the International Chess Foundation (FIDE) which takes place every two years where every international chess federation is able to enter a team to compete.
The Olympiad is a team event, which like the Olympics will move around the world to countries chosen by FIDE and continue to be one of the biggest chess competitions.
Team Chess or Individual Chess at the Olympics
It’s a tricky call, but one might think that chess would take any step and any format offered to see chess boards being included in the Olympic games, but if it were a team event at the games, would that not detract from the already well-established biennial Olympiad.
It probably would. So the next question is, would individual chess be enough of a draw for the Olympic games. The answer to that, I feel, is ‘Yes’
If breakdancing is globally popular enough for inclusion I am sure finding an individual blitz chess champion should be a walk in the park. The wider chess community, I am sure, would agree as would the national federations, and before you know it, a chess player would become an athlete.