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Hide-and-seek… an official Olympic sport in Tokyo 2020?


Hide and seek in JapanWhether the game of hide-and-seek  will become an official Olympic sport in 2020 is anyone’s guess. And only if the International Olympic Committee agree to the unusual proposition made by Professor Yazuo Hasaki of Josai International University.

Professor Hazaki, a graduate of Nippon Sport Science University, is lobbying to make the game of hide-and-seek  (known as kakurenbo  in Japan) an official Olympic event and proposes the game is presented as an exhibition sport in 2020. His commitment to the game led him to set up the Japan Hide-and-Seek Promotion Committee in 2010, which to date has over 1,000 members. He speaks of his mission to “encourage a sport for all, meaning that anyone can take part, regardless of age, gender, or ability.”

The version of the hide-and-seek  game that Hazaki is promoting for the Olympics involves two teams of seven players in a 10-minute match on a square area that measures 65 x 65 feet – whereas the playing area for children under 12 measures 55 x 88 feet.

“I want to encourage sport for all, meaning that anyone can take part, regardless of age, gender or ability. Hide-and-seek  is a sport that anybody can play, from children as young as 4 years old to someone who is in their 80s.”

Professor Hazaki remains quite realistic, admitting “it may be difficult to get hide-and-seek  into the Olympics — the IOC just kicked wrestling out, and that is a sport that has been around for a long time.”

Hide-and-seek  (or hide-and-go-seek  in the US) is traditionally a children’s game in which a number of players conceal themselves in the environment, to be found by one or more “seekers” designated as being “it” who counts to a predetermined number while the other players hide. After reaching the number, the player who is “it” attempts to locate all hidden players, the player found last being the winner who becomes “it” in the next round.

The game is an example of folklore, or oral tradition, passed down by children to younger children through the generations, and not surprisingly has evolved in different ways across cultural borders. In one version played in the US, after finding the first player, “it” calls out Ollie Ollie oxen free*” to signal to the other “hiders” to return to base for the next game. In other versions, the found “hiders” help to seek out the remaining “hiders”.

Here’s how the game is known around the world:

USA Hide-and-go-seek
France Jeu de cache-cache
Germany Versteckspiel
Spain El  escondite
Bolivia Tuja
Chile / Ecuador Escondidas
El Salvador / Honduras Cucumbè
Hungary Bújócska
Israel Machboim
Romania De-a v-ati ascunselea
Sweden Kurragömma
South Korea Sumbaggoggil

* The phrase “Ollie Ollie oxen free*” derives from the German “Alle, alle auch sind frei!” (>”Everyone, everyone else is also free!“) thanks to the influence of German immigrants arriving in the US from as early as the 1670’s and again, passed down in oral tradition without intervention or correction.

Sources: Various

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