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Chess not an Olympic Sport

September 2002

The Olympic pipe-dream is all but over. On August 29 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected chess from inclusion in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 since it does not require physical exertion. This will be a major disappointment to FIDE (World Chess Federation) President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov who has sought to secure the future funding of chess through Olympic participation.

In 1995 chess became an IOC recognised organisation. In 1999 chess was classified as a sport which upgraded FIDE to the status of "recognised federation". After further review the IOC have formally rejected chess as a valid Olympic event, "While there is no global definition of what constitutes a sport, and what the difference between a sport and a game is, the most commonly accepted element of a sport is physical exertion in the conduct of competition. In this regard, 'mind sports' could be considered as sports where the physical elements are not necessarily performed by the player in the conduct of the competition. The following requests were considered ineligible for further consideration:- Bridge (WBF) - Chess (FIDE)."

The advantages to Scotland of chess becoming an Olympic sport were far from apparent. Scotland is not an independent sovereign state so would not have been allowed to compete. GM Jonathan Rowson, currently ranked no.8 in Britain, would be the only Scottish born competitor in any UK team. Chess already has it's own very successful biannual Olympiad (which does include Scotland and over 100 other countries) and it is not obvious how being subsumed as an insignificant part of an Olympic Games is any improvement.

The best news of all is that Olympic rejection should mean that the drug-testing farce can cease immediately. FIDE had begun to impose drug tests on chessplayers to pander to IOC guidelines. Tens of thousands of dollars were going to be frittered away on a completely pointless exercise. There has been no recorded instance of any chessplayer ever taking a performance enhancing substance, not least since nobody knows exactly what drugs will work. Ordinary club players were helping to pay for the drug-testing nonsense through the fees paid to FIDE by their federations.

Scotland on Sunday

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Chess Scotland 2002