The Olympic Dream

by Conrad Schormann
2/13/2019 – When, if not now? FIDE tries again to include chess into the Olympic Programme. In 1924 FIDE was founded when the Olympic Games took part in Paris, and in 2024 FIDE wants to celebrate this anniversary by making chess olympic. Conrad Schormann explains why the chances for this to happen are better than ever.

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The Olympic Dream is alive

Chess could become part of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Yesterday, February 12, in Paris, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and his French colleague Bachar Kouatly launched a campaign which ideally will culminate in the inclusion of the royal game (Blitz and Rapid for a start) into the Olympic programme. This initiative does not represent the first such attempt, but it seems that chess this time really has a chance.

Chess players dream the Olympic dream since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized chess as a potential Olympic sport in 1999. To maintain the vague Olympic hope, chess since then has complied with the IOC rules, even if they make no sense at all when it comes to mind sports. Since 2001, chess tournaments have been subject to the same doping rules as other sports, which has not brought more fairness to the game but at least led to some amusing anecdotes.

The fact that anabolic steroids or amphetamines are remarkably unsuitable for increasing one's Elo-rating has never caused a FIDE representative to try to explain to the IOC the real problems chess faces in regard to cheating. Chess does have a doping problem, but it cannot be controlled by a ban on pills or injections. Instead, for chess a ban on mobile phones (among other things) would be necessary. But would the IOC like to include such a ban into its statutes? Mobile phone manufacturers sponsoring the Olympics would not be thrilled.

Why chess has a chance in Paris 2024

Up to now such concrete problems have never been relevant, because the Olympic hope of chess has always been so vague. In 2018, at the end of Ilyumzhinov's reign, when FIDE presented itself as an organization without power and without bank account, the IOC even threatened to severe all ties to it.

But now there are a number of factors that give chess in Paris 2024 a real chance. An anniversary, for example. Not only does Paris host the games again 100 years after the Olympic Games of 1924, but the World Chess Federation, founded in Paris in 1924, also celebrates its 100th birthday. On top of this, the World Chess Team Championship, a forerunner of the Chess Olympiad, was played in Paris in 1924.

Show match between Arkady Dvorkovich and Sophie Milliet

After the elections in 2018 FIDE is for the first time led by someone who is taken seriously in international (sports) politics. Arkady Dvorkovich, head of organisation at the Soccer World Cup in 2018, has a huge network and also shows drive and initiative in the world of chess.

In addition, there is a potential alliance that some dinosaurs in the Olympic committee might find scary: chess and eSport. While the young electronic sport is still fighting for recognition in some countries, it will most likely become part of the games in 2024, either as demonstration or as a fixed part of the programme.

"68 percent of the chess players in France are under 20"

Unlike popular eSports titles, chess has a long tradition and history to offer – and yet it's perfect for on-screen competition. It also attracts young viewers. On Twitch chess nowadays often has more viewers than Counterstrike.

Speaking of "young", the IOC has already announced that a sport must appeal especially to young people in order to be included in the Paris 2024 programme.  Bachar Kouatly was delighted to hear that. So much for chess as a game for old people: "68 percent of the chess players in France are under 20," Kouatly told the sports daily L'Équipe.

FIDE has announced an intensive campaign to bring chess to Olympia 2024. The meeting of Dvorkovich and Kouatly with French media representatives is said to have been the prelude of this campaign.

The German version of this article first appered in "Perlen vom Bodensee" and is here translated with kind permission.

Translation: Johannes Fischer


FIDE Press Release

PARIS, 12th February 2019 – Chess candidate to join the Paris 2024 Olympic Games 

Chess has officially launched its campaign to be included as a sport at the Paris Olympic Games 2024. This official launch took place Tuesday 12th of February in Paris, in the presence of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) President, Arkady Dvorkovich.

Leaders of the International and French chess federations met with the French press to promote the inclusion of chess, a sport with a genuine global appeal – FIDE has a membership of 189 national federations, and 600 millions of people practice chess in the world.

Arkady Dvorkovich (International Chess Federation), Bachar Kouatly (French Chess Federation) and Sophie Milliet (6 times French champion and International Master) are determined to see chess join the Paris 2024 Games.

Chess is a fight on a board, and has proven especially for the rapid and blitz games, to draw wide audiences on tv and on line via video. Rapid and blitz are the format of play considered for the Paris 2024 competitions.

Chess is progressing in the world with 600 million people practicing it, in several millions of games that are played online every day. Chess is also growing in France, where 67% of the members of the French Chess Federation are aged under 18 years old. If this growing sport becomes be part of the Olympic Games in 2024, France could count on Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, currently ranked number 2 in the world for blitz chess.


Véronique REVOY :


Conrad Schormann, skilled newspaper editor, runs an agency for editing and communication in Überlingen, at Lake Constance. But he lacks time to play chess which is partly due to the fact that he very much likes to write about it, for Chessbase, in the Reddit chess forum, or for his chess teaching blog Perlen vom Bodensee...


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