It has never been a challenge for us to identify if basketball, soccer, football and hockey are a sport. We all know they are sports. Those sports all have their own mega sport events, such as the NBA, World Cup, NFL and NHL respectively. In those mega events, athletes compete against other teams in order to win the title of the league. As we can see, one of the primary component of sport is competition. If there is no competition within those sports, most of the mega events would not exist. In addition, considering the sports mentioned above, they all have another component in common. Athletes of those sports need physical training. They need to train their body and maintain their condition in order to perform well in those sports. However, since 1999, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recognized chess as a sport. (Magnusson, 2001) The idea of chess being a sport is always debatable. The most significant reason is that chess does not involve physical exertion of a sport, which is the exact opposite of the sports listed above.
Since the 2000s, there is another activity that lays on the boundary of sport. It is speedcubing. Speedcubing is the activity of solving twisty puzzles. The most common twisty puzzle is the Rubik’s cube, which it is a plastic cube that is covered with small squares that are in 6 different colours. Players will attempt to twist and turn the cube as quickly as possible so that all the squares with the same colour are facing the same sides of the cube. This activity is similar to chess, it requires strategic moves and concentration. However, both chess and speedcubing are lacking the component of physical exertion of a sport. In this blog, I will investigate if speedcubing is entering the world of traditional sports or not.
BACKGROUND OF THE RUBIK’S CUBE
It is not surprising that the Rubik’s cube has once been a part of your childhood memories. The Rubik’s cube has been around for more than 40 years. It is created by Erno Rubik, who is from Hungary. In the early 1980s, the Rubik’s cube was very popular and was selling very well. (Wallop, 2014) Players of the Rubik’s cube were subsumed into the process of figuring out the ways and method to solve the Rubik’s cube. In the early 1980s, Erno Rubik was the first person who have invented a way to solve the Rubik’s cube. (Le Rubiks cube.com, n.d) This makes the Rubik’s cube more challenging for the players to solve, since there is no resources to guide players to tackle the puzzle. Due to this reason, by the end of the 1980s, the Rubik’s cube craze slowed down. However, 20 years later, the awareness of the Rubik’s cube has raised again. There are two main reasons of this transformation. The first reason is the development of the Internet and technology, and the second reason is globalization.
THE RISE OF SPEEDCUBING
In 2000, the development of the Internet and technology has become more mature.It changes the destiny of the Rubik’s cube. The Internet was introduced to the society, which allowed mass circulation of information around the community (Flew & Smith, 2014), including the solutions of the Rubik’s cube. Players could extract resources as well as search for different solutions of solving the Rubik’s cube on the Internet. Since then, the popularity of the Rubik’s cube has increased steadily after its downfall. The introduction of the Internet to the public has not only provided a wide range of resources for the players, it has further created the opportunity of globalization. Globalization is ‘a process through which space and time are compressed by the technology, information flows, and trade and power relations, allowing distant actions to have increased significance at the local level.’ (Rowe & Hutchins, 2014, p. 7) Globalization has immensely encouraged the direct communication between players of the Rubik’s cube and the public. It has further fostered the discussion between players about the strategies of solving the Rubik’s cube. The media technology enables users to ‘interact freely via computer mediated communication with any fellow players, irrespective of their physical-spatial location.’ (Rowe & Hutchins, 2014, p. 7) With the circulation of meaningful discussions and conversations surrounding the topic of the Rubik’s cube, it gathers the attention to the Rubik’s cube. Hence, players are getting better in solving the Rubik’s cube. They are not only capable in solving the Rubik’s puzzle, but have also evolved to solve the puzzle in a fast speed. As a result, the activity of speedcubing was born.
The maturation of technology and the process of globalization both contributed to rise of both Rubik’s cube as well as speedcubing. The amount of players has been increasing and more people are desired to compete with other players of the activity. The World Cube Association (WCA) was founded in 2004. It is responsible to organize competitions all over the world and validating world records. (World Cube Association, n.d) The World Cube Association has broken down the major barrier of the political economy in the Rubik’s community. According to Corrigan, ‘political economy of media is a theoretical perspective that seeks to understand the inter-relationships of wealth, power, and the media and cultural systems in societies.’ (Corrigan, 2014, p. 43) The WCA is a non-profit organization that has barely any entrance barriers that encourage people in different age groups to join. (World Cube Association, n.d) The only thing players need for the competition is a Rubik’s cube that is approved by a WCA Delegate. At the same time, the WCA organizes competitions all around the world and in different cities. The countries include Norway, Spain, Guatemala, Malaysia and the Philippines. (World Cube Association, n.d) People from all around the world would have the opportunity to compete, which minimizes the physical location barrier. People wanted to compete in those competitions but cannot afford to travel to other countries could also have the chance to compete locally, and have the potential to set the world record. As we can see, the WCA has greatly minimized the struggle between the haves and have nots. It is not necessary to have the authority behind to push players to the top of the pyramid within the activity. Everyone has a fair and equal chance of winning the competitions. The concerns of wealth, power and the media and cultural systems in societies are highly neglected. Of course, there are certainly other factors that could possibly contribute to the political economy of the activity. But then, with the decision of WCA, allowing everyone with different abilities and age to compete is already a huge step of breaking down the infrastructure of political economy.
SPEEDCUBING AS A SPORT?
First of all, there are certain criteria an activity should meet before being considered as a traditional sport. ‘A sport is something physical, something that athletes need to have skill in, and it is something competitive in nature.’ (Flores, 2013) If we look at speedcubing, the activity does fulfil two of the requirements of a traditional sport. Speedcubing demands highly skilled players and it encompasses the nature of competition. Some people also argues that the fast and precise hand and finger movement while playing speedcubing classifies as the physical exertion of a sport. However, it is certainly very debatable.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
The question of whether an activity is a sport or not seems very insignificant and negligible. However, it is a critical question for players of those activities. An activity being recognized by authorities, such as the IOC is very important for players to be recognized as well as to reach to another level within the community of the activity. The next step that is necessary to help players to expand the potential of their activities is to raise awareness to the public. Writing newspaper articles, blog posts, and share information related to the activities that are laying on the margin of sports on social media would further enhance the outreach of the topic to the public.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
What is your view on the topic? Do you think speedcubing should be recognized as a sport? Do you think recognizing marginalized activities as sports is important?
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