On December 12, while the players took the morning off to recover from various degrees of jetlag, the media were treated to an opening press conference at the Information Office of Beijing Municipality. Ms. Wang Hui, Press Office Director of the Beijing Municipal Government, introduced Mr Hein Verbruggen, president of SportAccord, who thanked the Sports Administration of China and the Beijing Municipal Government for having the foresight to ask SportAccord to come to Beijing to develop a new type of sports event that would also serve education, cultural, and social purposes. Mr Wu Jingmi, Executive President of the local organizing committee, described the popularization of mind games as part of Beijing’s plan to develop into a cultural center and an intelligent city. Observing that the populace were coming to understand the educational value of mind games better, he reported that 1500 primary and high-school students had taken part in a mind games competition of their own on December 9, and 300 college students would be holding a college mind games on the 16th, in parallel with the SportAccord event. Vincent Gaillard, SportAccord’s Director General, also emphasized the value of the educational outreach program and described SportAccord’s multi-sport events (not just mind games but also combat, artistic, and beach games) as a new concept, unlike anything else out there in the marketplace.
David Neville, Director of SportAccord’s Multi-Sports Unit praised the fantastic job done by the local organizers to get ready for the 152 players and 74 officials, described the more extensive media coverage (24 platforms broadcasting to 64 countries), and praised the preliminary online tournamet,which attracted 380,000 amateur participants this year, five of whom won trips to Beijing.
Some of the online winners were on hand to greet the media. Joanne Missingham, the ‘face of go’ for the games, played her role as ambassador by addressing the media in Chinese and English. In the question and answer session that followed, Hein Verbruggen described how Beijing’s all-out approach to the 2008 Olympic Games had earned it a permanent Olympic legacy, and speculated on the future chances for mahjong at the World Mind Games — possible, if it can produce an international organization. And with this, the World Mind Games were ready to begin.
- James Davies (photos Yang Shuang)