Government to bid for 2020 'mind Olympics'

Government to bid for 2020 'mind Olympics'

The education ministry is proceeding with plans to invite the World Mind Sports Games to be held in Tokyo in 2020, to coincide with the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, sources said.

The WMSG comprises five events, including chess and go, to which the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry would like to add shogi, the sources said. Shogi is unique for allowing players to redeploy pieces they capture.

The other events are bridge, checkers and xiangqi, or Chinese chess.

Chess is played by 1 million people in Japan and 500 million worldwide, according to domestic player associations, while checkers is said to be played by as many as 1 billion people around the world.

Organisations governing chess and bridge competitions are recognised by the International Olympic Committee. They are called "mind sports," in contrast to physical sports like football or track and field.

Chess and go were official events at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

The WMSG were first held in 2008 in Beijing, and are on the same four-year schedule as the Summer Olympics. France hosted the Games in 2012. Japanese competitors took home medals in go and other events in Beijing.

The Olympic Charter requires host cities to also put on cultural events. The ministry hopes to make the WMSG the pillar of cultural interchange at the Olympics, the sources said.

The ministry wants shogi to be included in the events for the 2020 Games. Shogi is highly popular domestically, with 10 million people said to follow professional shogi tournaments.

The ministry is working with groups such as Nihon Ki-in, a national go association, to put together the WMSG bid. It is also seeking to broaden the game's domestic reach through such methods as requiring primary school students to study it.

"Japanese culture and history are encapsulated in go and shogi. I'd like to increase its appeal through the mind Olympics," said Chizu Kobayashi, a former Nihon Ki-in director.

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