Ilyumzhinov: «The head of the IOC Admits Chess is One of the Most Popular Sports»

“The day before yesterday I met with the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.  When Juan Antonio Samaranch was the President, we achieved huge progress. In 1999, the Committee confirmed that chess was a sport and that FIDE was the only organization to represent the interests of chess players in the Olympic movement,” - said the head of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in a live radio broadcast on ‘Sport FM’.

“In January 1998, Samaranch leased the Olympic Museum building as a venue for the World Champion title match between Anatoly Karpov and Vishi Anand.

However, relations between the two organisations cooled somewhat when Jacques Rogge was elected and resumed again when Thomas Bach became the President of MOC, and we are grateful to him for that.  He received many letters from the Presidents of the National Olympic Committees of Asia, Africa and Latin America asking him to include chess in the Winter Olympic programme.

That is why our negotiations with the MOC resulted in the creation of a working group. The next meeting is scheduled for August.  Thomas Bach acknowledged that chess is one of the most popular sports today: 186 countries are members of FIDE. 600million people play chess and we organise more than 100,000 tournaments per annum. The IOC cannot ignore this fact.
There is a number of obstacles preventing the inclusion of chess in the Olympic program. UK has not recognized chess as a sport yet. The British Parliament passed a law defining sport as ‘actions that require physical exertion’.  Chess is believed not to require physical exertion.  However, it is possible to move a king or a rook weighing one kilogram...
As for the Winter Olympics, it is stipulated that the presence of snow or ice is a necessary requirement for a sport. I reminded Thomas Bach that the World Chess Federation was created during the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. The formal agreement was signed by 14 countries.  The regulations about snow and ice were made relatively recently, only 20 or 25 years ago, therefore we also qualify for Olympic status.  There are no major obstacles. We have considered the concept of the development of the Olympic movement, so called ‘Programme 2020’.  It deals with the educational and cultural facets of sport. Chess has both these features.  Botvinnik used to say that chess is a combination of sports, science and culture”.