No chess at the Olympics anytime soon

by André Schulz
3/1/2019 – The organizers of the Olympic Games periodically consider proposals for new sports to be included. FIDE has applied for chess to be on the list. Just two weeks ago we reported "the Olympic dream is alive", but once more the sport did not make the cut. LA 2028 anyone?

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Olympic dream remains elusive

When planning the Olympic Games, the organizers make suggestions for new sports. The International Olympic Committee wants the games to be younger, more urban, and more gender-balanced.

The World Chess Federation has been struggling for many years for inclusion in the elite circle of Olympic sports. One reason is financial — such sports tend to receive much more funding at home than non-Olympic sports. For instance, in Germany they are financially supported by the Ministry of the Interior, and Olympic qualification is a primary criteria. No doubt the politicians want to see athletes from the respective sports holding medals in major events such as World Championships or Olympic Games — preferably in front of television cameras. The ratio of financial support between Olympic and non-Olympic sports is approximately 10:1. This is similar or even more pronounced in other countries. 

To keep the dream alive, FIDE and the chess players have put up with a lot of nonsense like doping tests are carried out all official championships, despite the fact nobody knows an effective means of doping in chess — all listed and doping agents are generally considered ineffective. 

FIDE was founded a few years after the end of the First World War, in the spirit of reconciliation, on the margins of the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. That is, of course, what gives the World Chess Federation its French acronym (Fédération Internationale des Échecs). 2024 marks FIDE's centennial. Wouldn't it have been nice to celebrate during the Olympic Games. But such efforts appear once again to be in vain.

The application for chess was simply not considered. This could be due in part to the fact that the chess is not universally recognized as a sport, due to its lack of overt athleticism. In Germany, the game's position as a recognized sport has at time been precarious, even though chess was a founding member of the German Sports Association. It's also not the sort of sport that fills big grandstands. Sure there are many fans widely distributed online, but they are largely invisible. And that's not what the IOC wants.

The sports on the shortlist for 2024 correspond more to the zeitgeist, such as competitive breakdancing. In fact, in Tokyo 2020, you will already see new competitions in sport climbing, skateboarding, karate, baseball / softball and surfing.

Maybe it's time FIDE put this particular dream of inclusion in the Olympics to bed permanently. And drop the doping test.

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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genem genem 3/4/2019 08:06
Chess is a "digital" sport, whereas tennis is an "analog" sport. Both chess and tennis are "direct-interaction" sports, which is the highest ideal for any sport.

Bowling is a less of a sport than either chess or tennis is, because bowling lacks direct-interaction between the players (unless we get silly and consider things like trash talking).

But at least the winner in bowling is determined solely in the arena of play, rather than by judges.
The Olympics is mostly about $ money. Chess is not watchable on TV they way Break Dancing is.
Philip Feeley Philip Feeley 3/4/2019 05:02
We have our own Olympiad every two years. We don't need the steroid-laced fest.
rokko rokko 3/3/2019 10:09
If breakdancing is a sport why not ballet or drum playing (pretty exhausting - watch Whiplash) or speed painting...

As soon as you need judges to assess the performance (not necessary in chess) it is entertainment or art but not sport.
Beanie Beanie 3/2/2019 02:57
If chess is a sport then presumably go, bridge, poker, monopoly, snakes-and-ladders, draughts and pokemon are too.
Keshava Keshava 3/2/2019 01:29
ChessSpawnVermont is correct. In fact there are several ways that doping can aid chess performance.
ChessSpawnVermont ChessSpawnVermont 3/1/2019 02:34
If a chess player not suffering from ADD takes an ADD medication it will in fact enhance concentration and performance over the board. That use is prohibited by WADA absent a therapeutic exemption. ADD medications are a form of stimulant prohibited by WADA.
KevinC KevinC 3/1/2019 01:25
Update: The IOC has just announced that Chess-Boxing is the newest Olympic sport. :)
Serse Serse 3/1/2019 11:26
At least chess will not be compromised in this absolute ecological scandal that is the Paris Olympics...
AidanMonaghan AidanMonaghan 3/1/2019 11:26
The IOC will likely never accept classical time controlled chess.

But Blitz and Bullet Chess require mental AND physical agility - often the kind of physical agility that would qualify it as the kind of sport that could meet IOC expectations.