Chess Deserves Inclusion in the Games
Swimming and Athletics (Track and Field) are the most popular events at any Olympics, keeping audiences glued. Tennis, football, table-tennis and badminton also get some attention.
I may be a little prejudiced here as these are the games I typically follow.
Image credit: The Guardian
With the Rio Olympics less than a week away from drawing to a close, it is done with swimming. Besides swimming great Michael Phelps, the man the world talks about the most is Usain Bolt who won his third straight triple-gold effort in Rio.
It is this kind of predictable results that distinguish great athletes from the rest.
There are many nondescript events at the Olympics and they are there for a purpose – sport cannot be allowed to be monopolised by a few popular events.
Diversity in sport
Diversity in sport needs to be encouraged as the Olympics goes beyond populism. It is a platform that brings to the limelight human endeavour spread across multiple sporting events.
I would wish to see chess also making it to the Olympics. It does have a Chess Olympiad as well as the world chess championship but FIDE’s (chess federation) expressions of interest to get it included in the Olympic Games have consistently been rejected by the IOC.
Recognising it as sport but putting roadblocks for its acceptance do not make sense.
Requires Mental Strength, a Lifetime of Effort
What is working against it is that chess is not a physical sport but the thinking that it requires less effort than, say, what swimming requires is a fallacy born out of an inability to understand the game or some inherent prejudices.
Even The Straits Times in Singapore does not consider chess a sport and chess championship results are only covered in the general news pages. That is downright silly, to say the least.
Go, ask Magnus Carlsen or Kasparov or Viswanathan Anand what it took them to win the world title! In fact, the world chess title match is spread over 24 games over more than a month.
Chess is a mind game that requires great mental strength and a lifetime of effort that includes mastering the openings and gambits, threadbare analysis and practice with seconds. It is a game which has no room for error – a single wrong move can cost you the game unlike in other events that allow you the leeway to come out of a mistake.
Even physical sports such as cricket, squash and netball are not at the Olympics. They are events where Asian countries excel.
Chess is a popular board game of strategy that is played universally but it cannot excite people who do not understand the game. In other words, spectator interest in chess will be confined to those who are familiar with the game.
Chess cannot attract the kind of spectator interest enjoyed by games like swimming, tennis or track and field events. They are games that can be enjoyed by people who have not played them.
But that is not sufficient reason to keep chess away from the Olympics.
G Joslin Vethakumar