Ultimately, it is difficult to consider the 2008 World Mind Sports games as anything other than a huge success. 143 countries were represented by 2763 competitors and approximately 800 staff (including team staff and judges, as well as other officials).
It is estimated that over 10 million people tuned in to broadcasts of the 2008 World Mind Sports Games, mainly from Beijing TV (the official Host Broadcaster) and Eurovision, but also online. The respective live webcast pages counted approximately 600,000 views during the events. Over 300 reporters covered the Games for more than 100 newspapers or other media outlets. It was interesting to see some of the ads aimed at the Chinese audience that were bought for the games. One that stood out in my mind was for Envy Wigs. I understand the cars, electronics, and sports equipment…but wigs? The these were not asian models or asian hairstyles being portrayed, but glossy Western images and almost no black hair! I guess it just goes to show how the culture / fashion of the west is still coveted by the emerging upward mobile Chinese even though the government is constantly demonizing the West.
Moving on from the now-defunct World Team Olympiad, Bridge showcased nine medal events. These saw the EU teams and players sweeping the gold tier, but China occupying four slots between silver and bronze — and Israel taking the silver for the Youth Pairs match, in Israel’s only medal of The Games. And the players come from hugely varied backgrounds, from Jessie Patla, a Rome baker, to Josh Drednau, a maritime lawyer in New Orleans. They all share a compelling interest and competitive spirit that explains their success.
Chess was far more mixed, with gold medals going to teams and players from the Ukraine, Russia, China, Bulgaria, Ecuador, and Hungary. The silver and bronze winners also included India, Vietnam, Singapore and Iran, with the sole European (ish) winner hailing from Greece.
Draughts saw an interesting split between Russian Draughts for Women and Brazilian Draughts for Men. Former Soviet nations swept the golds except for the Checkers division, which was taken by the USA. This marks the only Mind Sports medal that the US would win, though it is perhaps telling that the US player was Alex Moiseyev, who had been living in and playing for Russia until 1991. Barbados and the Netherlands gave the division a bit more global dispersion.
If you expected Go to be mainly an Asian playing field, you were wrong — it was completely an Asian playing field. North and South Korea and China had the gold, silver, and bronze all to themselves, with the sole addition of Taipei with a single silver medal.
Likewise, the Xiangqi category was unsurprisingly captured by China, who won eight out of fifteen events and all of the gold. Vietnam, Malaysia, and Hong Kong rounded out the silver and bronze, along with Australia’s sole medal in the Games (the Women’s Team silver).
The official results and team list web site showed that including officials the partipants were:
China had the largest team at 480, mostly Bridge players. France had 109 players, USA and Russia 108 players, Chinese Taipei 107 and Netherlands 102 players. The UK team with separate England, Wales and Scotland teams in some events was 109 players and there were 39 players from Ireland.
Smallest teams with one player each were from Honduras, American Samoa, St Martin, Nepal and Surinam. There were a total of 126 teams in all.