Arguments for the inclusion of memory and mind sports in future summer Olympics

I represent Greece, the country that invented the Olympic games 2797 years ago (in 776 BCE), in the Greek city of Olympia (still exists).

I would argue that many memory sports and mind sports (including chess or mental calculation), require much more energy and physicality than some of the current Olympics sports such as Pool Diving, Equestrian , Shooting, Archery or Golf.

I don’t believe that the brain (mind) is a seperate thing from the body. The brain requires around 20 or 25% of the total calories we consume. The brain is a physical part of the body, therefore a strenuous brain activity constitutes a 100% athletic (sports) activity.

I am absolutely 100% convinced that some memory disciplines such as ‘Numbers Marathon 1 Hour’ or ‘1 Hour Deck of Cards Memory’ or even mental calculation disciplines such as ‘Memoriad’s Flash Anzan’ (around 45 minutes of constant Anzan calculations (blind abacus), require a huge burning and consuming of a much greater amount of calories and focus compared to a few trials in Olympic Archery, Pool Diving, Equestrian , Shooting or Golf.

Besides, none of these aforementioned low-activity new Olympic sports were part of the original Olympics in the first place. In contrast with memory skills which were regularly practiced by ancient orators, speakers and teachers, before the written word was widespread. Not to mention Simonides in Ancient Greece in 6th century BCE, with his invention of the memory palace.

Also, many of these Olympic ‘sports’ can arguably also be done by non-human animals. I can easily imagine an ape/monkey riding a horse (Equestrian) or jumping and spin diving in a water pool or kicking a Golf ball with a stick. (not to mention the new ‘Olympic Climbing’ sport where the Top Apes (Chimps etc.) would definitely annihilate the best humans, in everything from bouldering to speed climbing).

Competitions like ‘Mind Sports Olympiad’ are not even close to 1 in a 1000 of what the summer Olympics in terms of exposure. This saddens me a bit for my human species. I think humans should be celebrating more human brain achievements. The fastest human can run 100m in around 10 seconds in the Olympics, but a random cheetah ran 100m in 5.95’’ seconds. (100 meters in less than 6 seconds). So, many of these Olympics records are not even the best records on the planet, giving that many animals can swim 10 times faster ( the top human swim speed is just 6mph compared to the 60 mph of a shark) . Kangaroos can also do boxing, and bears can wrestle also. The same with swimming etc. But I never recall last time I saw a non-human animal doing a memory sport.

How can a human claim ‘I am the best on the planet’, having a ‘World Record’ in these sports in running or swimming, when other animals can easily outswim and outrun them? Last time I checked, these animals like sharks or cheetahs, live in this world too. So, with all due respect to the fastest human swimmers and runners, Olympic running / swimming are not legit World Records. They never were.

Also, chess should not have a seperate Chess Olympiad itself, but it should definitely be included in the normal summer Olympiad. And to make up for the 125 years of chess’ unfair absence in the modern Olympics (since 1896), they should include, not only normal chess games (120 min / 40 moves ), but also Rapid 25/10 , Blitz 5/0 , Blitz 3/2, Fischer Random and arguably Bullet 1/0 as well.

The royal war strategy coming from chess is also present for at least 4000 years of warfare in human civilizations, unlike the new trendy ‘Olympic Skateboarding’. (with all due respect to the skateboarders of the world). The sport stages could fit all of us.

I am just writing here a few eccentric things in a low-traffic forum here. But if there were thousands of opinions like mine maybe we could push for more recognition and inclusion of the brain/mind sports in the Olympics, celebrating higher functioning brains. Because in the end, advanced human brains are the only advantageous difference between other animals and humans. Adaptation of the brain is the real human strength.

PS - For the record, I am Nodas Boukovalas and I have represented Greece for 10 years in 5 Mental Calculation World cups, 1 Mind Sport Olympiad (MSO) and 2 International Memoriad competitions (Antalya 2012, Las Vegas 2016).


Do you have any evidence that mind sports burns a significant number of calories? That seems unlikely to me.


Yes, I have evidence. It’s called common sense.

“That seems unlikely to me”.

It’s not unlikely, but a 100% certainty.

Even in sleep, the brain burns around 20% of the total calories who are converted to from chemical to biological energy.

The brain mass is around 2% in humans, therefore it essentially needs 10 times more calories than any other random body part (including feet, hands or whatever you use for the Olympics).

There are thousands and thousands of articles and journals regarding this fact.

Google, journals and search engines are your friend. Εmbrace them.

I’m not questioning that the brain uses a lot of energy. But how many extra calories are burned doing mind sports, compared to just watching TV, for example? I would have thought that any kind of physical activity would burn more calories. Otherwise people would be doing sudokus to lose weight.


Every memory athlete would be ripped lol


Yia sou, Nodas,

Just want to say that I very much like your general suggestion of including more mind sports in the Olympics.

That said, not all your arguments are equally strong, though, and may take the focus off your most important point.

A suggestion that I think helps your argument more, is to build on what you said about the brain (and hence mind) being a physical part of the body.

What is unquestionably the same between mind sports and Olympic sports in general is that they test the limits of human performance and human excellence. They demand enormous sacrifice, struggle and strategy on the part of each participant, and in so doing, they result in both a spectacle and source of inspiration to the onlooking world.

Calories, physical exertion, etc.–these are important topics, and very relevant to many aspects of the Olympics–but they are only important to extent that they give us some ways to talk about the most important aspect of the Olympics: human beings doing their utmost to push their minds and bodies to the extreme of their ability, to achieve new levels of human performance.




I like the idea of losing weight by sudoku. Will it come true? Though, I am not convinced by this.:joy:


“But how many extra calories are burned doing mind sports, compared to just watching TV, for example?”

It’s 100% sure than mind sports burn many more calories than reading or watching TV

In the same way it’s 100% sure that sprint running (or marathon running), burns many more calories than sitting in couch or lying in bed checking the smartphone.

Ι cannot quantify this easily. But according to common sense and intuition, actively doing any mind sports burns many more calories than passively watching TV (Bob Ross drawing etc.).

But I don’t want to generalize as all TV watching as passive activity. Because TV watching could be also watching the Chess World Cup with commentary analysing the moves, and trying to figure out patterns. Or watching a few tech or scientific documentaries.


Hi Darn.

My main motive of why I started this thread, is to question the arbitrary selection of what consists of an Olympic ‘human performance’.

In the computer world, the main performance benchmarks are how fast a CPU can calculate and how much memory load it can carry ( in L1/L2 cache as RAM or in long term as ROM (flash and hard disks).

So, if we want to benchmark the top humans in the globe every 4 years, then it should not only be based on land speed (running), or in the sea (swimming), or in all track and field or in ball games.
It would also be necessary to include measurements of human unaided calculation and human memory load capacity. Otherwise, the bodily measurements and benchmarks are incomplete, because they blatantly ignore the most important part of human body, which is the brain.

The words Athletics and athlete and all their derivatives, come from the Greek word ‘Athlos’ (ΑΘΛΟΣ / άθλος). This word Athlos itself in English means contest/ task / achievement. (e.g. in Greek we say : άθλοι του Ηρακλή ( athloi tou Hrakli ) = Hercules’ achievements).

So my argument is that memory and mind sports are forms of athletics themselves, and mnemonists (etc) are athletes, in the literal sense of word. (etymology is our friend).

I have etymology and history by my side. So, I don’t really have to abide by the selections of a randomly chosen elite ( I.O.C. / International Olympic Committee), to tell me who is an athlete and who is not.

If the mind activities are not put into more official measuring and competitive frameworks, then we will still wonder who is the fastest human brain and who is the top mnemonist human who can remember the most information , because the IAM and WMC are split at the moment.

The main difference between Olympics and all other World Championships, is that Olympics is essentially a 2-3 week simultaneous collection of many important sport activities, all performed in the same city. Olympics is like an exhibition of important world championships.

So, mind sports world championships could definitely fit into this olympic exhibition, given the fact that in some past Olympics , even art tasks were included (from painting, sculpture, town planning or music.). So, my suggest about the inclusion of mind sports is not even the most bizarre in Olympic history, given the aforementioned defunct art Olympic activities.

Hopefully, until the year 2100, a more advanced civilization will also catch up and include brain (mind) benchmarks in their Olympics and athletic competitions.

Until then, we can just enjoy this hobby.

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I don’t think it really matters how many calories something burns - what matters is that memory sport is testing the limits of human performance. “Who can jump the highest” and “who can memorize the most random numbers” are pretty similar.


I have huge respect for Greek history. Some brilliant lessons can be learned from even a slight knowledge of the amazing accomplishments of the Greeks. One of the most important strategic lessons comes from the battle of Salamis when the Persian king (Xerxes, iirc) thought he would win a naval victory because he had many more ships that were much more powerful. His fatal mistake was to bring too many large ships into a very small space. It was his opponents who, with fewer, smaller, more maneuverable ships were able to tie him in knots. The Persian king did not understand that there are times when the smaller few will outmaneuver the larger many.

I really like your view that mind and memory sports belong in the Olympics. I hope your campaign gains traction and eventually leads to that goal.

Best of luck.


This is a spicy thread lol.

Kangaroos can also do boxing, and bears can wrestle also. The same with swimming etc. But I never recall last time I saw a non-human animal doing a memory sport.

Golf is actually one of those sports that I don’t think the animal kingdom would beat us at. Tool usage is our specialty.

Speaking of that an Olympic games with the animal kingdom would be absolutely fascinating but animal rights would be a huge issue.

A run of the mill cheetah can beat Usain Bolt, but a run of the mill hard drive can beat you at memory sports. AlphaZero can beat any chess player or Go.

These arguments are just all over the place lol.

Video games are starting to be included so there is some progress on the mental front.

I think some major problems with memory sports is they are unpopular as a whole and I also think that it is difficult as a spectator sport. If we could see the images that the competitors are imagining and their systems then it would be fascinating, but that is unfortunately all hidden from view.


While I appreciate your ideas, I am aware that such a thread has been opened up in almost every sport’s community that is not in the olympics, call it wishful thinking or whatever.

I wouldn’t go into the calories part of it as I don’t think it’s that relevant in the discussion. I know of far more popular and more involving sports than Memory Sports and they aren’t sports either. It’s partly because how stubborn the IOC is and partly because of the general understanding that it does not require physical activity. (Even very popular sports like Cricket are still not accepted and other likes Baseball struggle to go on and off, there is no real good reason for this as far as i know), the actual decisions are made solely on IOC votes from information I can on the web.

I also think there is absolutely no argument against the fact that many of the sports not in olympics are in fact more physically demanding and/or have a much larger global fan following and competitive communities than many sports held in Olympics. Many examples have already been named in the thread.

I think the best way to go would be to make the sport more structured and presentable, build more infrastructure, so that we can get more popularity for the sport. But the above is usually going to be very non-sustainable for most people to do if there is no money involved, which is partly why organisations like WMSC have been at the forefront of the whatever little progress has happened in memory sports in the past 30 years, or why the so called Mental Olympics and Mind Sports Olympics have been held by the same organization for ages, or why every 2nd memory competition is an advertisement for the organizer’s academy.

Also, getting into the olympics might not actually be the most fruitful goal for the effort it might take to push it into the olympics. For sports such as Football for instance, the following is a lot and people rarely care about how it’s done in Olympics and everyone agrees the FIFA World Cup is more prestigious and entertaining. If we can more energy to improve the general infrastructure of our sport competitions, figure out ideas to make it more presentable on media broadcasting (that’s sort of necessary for more mass adoption and brand support), that will be great, but all of this is easier said than done.


I would also like to add something to this which is that the mentality of “mindsports aren’t real sports” is still pretty strong.

A few years ago the European court of justice decided that something can be considered a sport if it had real benefit for someone’s mental or physical well-being. Thus a lot of boardgames and mindsports are not considered sports.

This affects E-sports as well since videogames are at an even worse position regarding physical or mental well-being.

As for memory and calculation sports…
We can argue that it’s good for our memory and brain but I don’t think it will be enough to convince any of the big names.

However, I think there are multiple solutions to this problem.

1; the case of chess.

Chess is considered a sport by the Olympic committee and over 100 countries. Even 24 out of 28 membercountries of the european union recognize chess as a sport.

But how is this possible? Chess has almost no benefit physically or mentally. The 6000 calories burned when playing an elite chess tournament is actually bad for your health, in case anyone didn’t know. How can chess be recognized as a sport but other mindgames not?

This is, I think, a dent in the eu’s court’s decision. Now that I am going to study law, I might do something with this as a sideproject in the future if I get the chance.

2; grow the community

I agree with batman on this. I think growing the sport should be the community’s first priority.

Before the year 2000 chess was not recognized as a sport by the olympic committee and I think the only reason why they changed their minds is because of its popularity. Also, money talks in the real world.

A big community would be more beneficial to the memory and calculation sports than being recognized as an official sport by some big names.


Memory sports should be in the Olympics and our top competitors should be household names. I think we will break out very soon, we have an interesting product.


Albino, tell me how to spread love for mental calculation without being looked as an alien.

Maybe if Nike promote something like it did for football freestyle in your country in 2003, which helped grow popularity of football freestyle around the world [for example, see this clip: Nike Freestyle Football Event part 1 (2003) - YouTube] and thanks to that now we, lovers of that sport, have multiple tournements every year, then we can HOPE mental math or memory can be widespread…

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I know, right? No one would tell a runner “Hey, it’s stupid to run when we have cars to get around in!” And yet, for mental calculation, that’s exactly what we do.


Mindsports are real sports, IMO. But to say that they require more physicality than the sports you mentioned is surely wrong.

Also, the amount of calories burned in an activity isn’t really relevant to anything.

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It’s not stupid at all. It’s exactly the same analogy with the runners. Runners usually run around 7 Mph but the fastest man made object is around 250,000 Mph.
But I don’t see people calling out runners, because they move around 35 thousand times slower than other man-made objects.

In mental calculation, the human speed is about a billion times slower than the silicon chip speed. But the point is to keep the body active, in both running and mental calculation. I know a Spanish guy named Alberto Coto, who won the Mental Calculation World Cup 2008 and he also runs multiples marathons every year.

But most mental calculators that I know (including me),
only just practice a bit before the competitions.

There are around of 3 pounds of smart matter (brain) inside our skulls, so it’s useful to use it occasionally for calculation benchmarking.

In the same way, I benchmark my PC only a tiny amount of the time (running graphics card tests and cpu benchmarks). But the benchmark should be there in case of wanting to measure the speed. That’s why these kinds of competitions are useful.

According to Google 1st result on physicality :
the fact of relating to the body as opposed to the mind

Τhat’s the 100% mistake and fail. Because it’s 100% certain the mind (brain) is a part of the body, therefore that dichotomy is false.

And beyond semantics, if you use again etymology, then physicality comes from the Greek word ‘Physis’ (Fysi - Φύση / ΦΥΣΗ) which means nature. Physics come from the same root.

As it is obvious, the brain exists in nature, therefore by using the brain harder, we exercise strenuous physicality 100%