Ranka: As the IGF Secretary General, what are your feelings as you look back on the 1st World Mind Sports Games?
Shigeno: First of all, it’s a relief that they have been successfully concluded. When I took up my post in January 2006, there was a plan, but the venue had not yet been decided and I was full of misgivings about whether it would come off or not.
When the venue was decided, in a major go power with a long history and a lot of experience and which was eagerly looking forward to the Olympics, I felt much more confident and I was able to go ahead with the preparations without unnecessary worries. Even so, this was the first event to be planned jointly by a number of organizations including IMSA, the IGF, and the WMSG Organizing Committee.
These groups are of different natures and speak different languages, so naturally we ran into various problems. There were many occasions when I felt I wanted to abandon the project, but, thanks to the support of many people, we were able to overcome the problems. In particular, we received tremendous support from the Chinese government, the Chinese Weiqi Association, and the WMSG Organizing Committee, and I myself learned a lot. It’s very difficult for me to find words adequate to express my feelings, but I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude.
Ranka: There were over 600 competitors from 60 countries in the go section. How did you feel about this?
Shigeno: To be honest, I expected much fewer, as this was the first event in which participants paid part of their own expenses. The number was a delightful surprise. I’m very grateful to all the go players who came to Beijing and to the members of the IGF.
The WMSG were organized on the Olympic model, with competition between countries and with professionals and amateurs competing as equals.
This format was already in general use with bridge and chess, but it was a first for go. It was an epoch-making challenge that will take a place in go history. I believe that, with the present worldwide spread of go, an event like this is a very significant one for raising the level of go and for publicizing it. I hope that, with necessary improvements, we can make the next WMSG an event that will satisfy go fans even more.
Ranka: I saw articles referring to the event as ‘the mind-sports Olympics’. What was the actual relationship with the Olympics?
Shigeno: From the initial planning stage, the WMSG started out with the understanding and approval of the IOC and GAISF, and both Jacques Rogge, IOC President, and Hein Verbruggen, GAISF President, were honorary members of the WMSG committee. As is clear from the fact that IMSA was founded with the support of GAISF, it is a major target of IMSA to spread mind sports in the international sporting world as one link in the Olympic movement. We hope that in the future the WMSG will be positioned as an officially recognized Olympic competition. In this respect, the success of the 1st WMSG is a big step, but the WMSG will need more achievements in the future to obtain IOC recognition.
The IGF is striving to attain affiliation with the IOC in the same way as chess and bridge but is a long process and there are still many uncertain factors.
Ranka: When will the 2nd WMSG be held? After the London Olympics?
Shigeno: It would be ideal if the WMSG could be held again after the next Olympics, but in reality there are various difficult problems.
For example, if one spends a month on the WMSG after a month spent on the Olympics, then a further month spent on the Paralympics, that makes a total of three months, which creates a very heavy burden on the host country. In the case of the 1st WMSG, China gave extensive assistance on a national basis; in particular, their support on the financial side was what made staging the games possible. It will probably be hard to duplicate this in another city. The staging of the next WMSG is the biggest task for IMSA.
Personally, I hope it will be possible to stage a go event even if we couldn’t succeed getting it linked with the Olympics and the IMSA. I would like to make good use of this experience by having the IGF plan and stage on its own events like the WMSG in which professionals and amateurs can enjoy competing together in the same arena. Such an event, which could also host a variety of activities, would be a wonderful opportunity to gather the go community once every four years. In my opinion this is the kind of event the times call for. I believe the go world deserve it and the IGF together with its members and with the co-operation of the professional associations can do it.
The WMSG were an event with many problems that required solving, but, thanks to it, I believe that both the IGF and I myself have grown a lot. I hope that we will all make good use of this experience and continue to advance together to achieve our goal of popularizing and publicizing go internationally, in cooperation with the different countries and organizations and international society as a whole.
Ranka: Thank you.