Bridge started as a card game that managed to become one of the most sophisticated pastimes, although it is not a common activity among the Egyptians nowadays.
The Egyptian Bridge Federation’s current Administrative Manager Waleed Menyawi spoke to Daily News Egypt to introduce this intellectual sport to readers.
Can you tell us how bridge started in Egypt?
In the early1930s, the Egyptian Bridge Federation (EBF) was established. Its first president was Mohamed Pasha Sultan. Upper-classes were the ones who played bridge in the Egyptian Automobile Club. In 1969, the federation merged with the Chess Federation of Egypt and created the Egyptian Bridge and Chess Federation.
In 1973, EBF separated from chess and formed the present federation. Around 18 persons joined the bridge federation since then.
EBF started in the Automobile Club and was then joined by the Al-Gezira, Heliopolis, Al-Ahly, and Alexandria Sporting clubs. Nowadays, bridge is practiced at many clubs, such as Wadi Degla, Maadi, El-Shams, and the Shooting Club. Al-Mahalla and Port Said clubs also joined but unfortunately did not compete.
Currently the federation is annually holding a league called the Egypt Cup, with around seven championships and team competitions between the different clubs.
What are the problems bridge faces in Egypt?
Many sports federations in Egypt that are not related to football do not receive enough funds.
Another different problem is that bridge in Egypt is not received well in general. The majority of people think that as long as it is a cards game and therefore it is a type of gambling. Unfortunately old Egyptian movies helped strengthen this concept. The reality is very different since bridge is a very aristocratic game that requires high mental capacities.
What about the status of the game internationally?
Mind sports are divided into six types, including chess, GO, draught, and bridge, which is stated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the most sophisticated mind sport worldwide. Chess is classified as the second. Unfortunately GO, draught, and the other two sports are not practiced in Egypt.
The World Bridge Federation was established in the 1950s and Egypt was among the most establishing countries. At the begging of the 2000s, the federation started calling upon IOC to include bridge as a sport, not as a game, and to be included under IOC’s umbrella. IOC investigated bridge’s file for about seven years.
During the investigation bridge was included as the first untraditional sport in the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake city, US in 2002, in which Egypt participated and won sixth place. It was the first time for Egypt to participate in the Winter Olympics.
Bridge was then recognised as a sport and dubbed as a mind sport instead of a game. It was then included under the umbrella of IOC.
Were there any benefits and reasons behind this recognition?
One of the main reasons behind this recognition is that it was medically proved that bridge strengthens the body’s immunity system, since it requires a lot of thinking and high concentration, causing the mind to release a high percentage of white blood cells.
When bridge players were medically tested, it was shown that they have less than 2% chances of suffering Alzheimer in their future, and some of the tested players were 80-years-old or more. Among its physical advantages is that it strengthens the muscles. This research was conducted and published in the US and Germany nearly 15 years ago.
Can you explain more about its participation in the Olympics?
The IOC decided to establish a separate Olympics round for mind sports. Since then, after the Olympic Games, the Special Olympics take place, followed by the Olympics for mind sports.
The first World Mind Sports Games were celebrated in Beijing 2008, followed by the second held in Lille, France in 2012. And of course, bridge will participate in the third mind game Olympics scheduled for 2016.