Mecca, the company predominantly known for bingo, has launched a campaign to get bingo recognised as an Olympic sport. You might think that this was something of an April Fool’s move, but the fact that the story broke the day before the famous date for wind-ups suggests not. Aiming for inclusion at the Games in Tokyo in 2020, Mecca might well be of the thought that it will drum up some good publicity regardless of whether or not its campaign is successful. Having seen bridge apply for inclusion in the Olympics in 2015, bingo is looking to follow suit.
Quite whether it will be given any consideration whatsoever or just laughed out of the IOC’s chamber remains to be seen. Bridge had its application to be recognised as a sport turned down by Sport England in 2015, with the governing body citing the fact that it doesn’t involve ‘physical activity’. Whether or not bingo is seen as being more physically active than bridge might well form part of the basis for any application to get it accepted as a sport in the Olympics. Most people can’t see it happening, but you just never know.
What Has Happened
Most people associated bingo with old ladies, sitting and nattering in between the calls by the host, at which point they furiously mark their tickets. Perhaps the occasional university student or two will pop in in the hopes of winning enough cash to pay for a few more drinks at the union. Though there are some newer forms of bingo that have begun to grow in popularity, those are the images that most of us conjure up when we think of bingo halls up and down the country. Certainly there won’t be many of us that think it is much of a sport.
Yet Mecca have begun the process of applying for certification of bingo as a sport from the International Olympic Committee, with the hope being that they can get it in the Summer Olympics in 2020. According to the bingo operator, the game fulfils many of the criteria that sports have to meet before being allowed to join the Olympic roster. The organisation asked 1,000 people if they thought that Bingo should be added to the list of recognised sports in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, with 95% responding in the affirmative.
Is It Serious?
The most obvious question to ask is whether or not Mecca are actually being serious with the application. The fact that it first hit the headlines quite close to April Fool’s Day made many people think that they’d just pushed the publish button on the story at the wrong time. There is definitely the feeling from some quarters that it is little more than a publicity stunt, which is backed up by the fact that the company has launched a series or sports-themed games to coincide with the announcement of their application to the IOC.
The ‘Speedy Sprint’ and the ‘Bingo Marathon’ have been joined by the ‘Triple Jump’, with the prizes on offer ranging from £25 to £20,000. Yet the truth about bingo is that it does boast a worldwide following and is relatively cheap and easy to play; all things that will appeal to the International Olympic Committee. Lesley Clifford from Mecca Bingo has put forward the case, saying, “Successful bingo playing requires a steady hand, intense concentration and mental agility; three attributes that most athletes are keen to possess and that our members have by the bucket-load.”
She went on, “All of the factors that make for a great game of bingo are evident within the criteria set by the Committee and we are proud to continue our campaign, knowing we have the support of over 95% of Brits.” Whether it is a PR stunt or a genuine campaign, bingo is looking to follow in the footsteps of the likes of poker, chess and bridge in applying for Olympic status. That none of those have yet become Olympic sports tells you that it is an uphill battle for bingo to make it into the IOC’s roster, but stranger things have happened.
It Is a Game of Chance
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to bingo ever being considered a sport is the fact that it is a game of chance. Whereas chess and bridge definitely require skill and poker has elements of skill involved, whether your numbers come up when playing bingo is something that you can have absolutely no control over. There is also the fact that bridge’s application to be recognised as a sport was turned down by Sport England last year, with the governing body indicating that it did not entail ‘a physical exercise’; a problem that bingo also suffers from.
Whatever happens, it looks as though 2020 would come too soon for bingo. Tokyo has already made its proposals for the sports that it wishes to include in the Games. These will be discussed during the next meeting of the Executive Board of the IOC, which is scheduled to take place in June. Bingo will join a list of activities, such as bell-ringing, waiting anxiously to hear whether or not it can be elevated to the next level by achieving the unlikely and being made into an Olympic sport in the coming years.