Up until February 7, 2018, the IAM Board (International Association of Memory) is looking for feedback regarding the pilot project of running an official and internationally ranked memory competition in Canada this coming April in Edmonton. The reason this project is a pilot project where feedback is required is that they are planning a first in the 26 year history of internationally ranked competitions: The official arbiter for this event will be overseeing the competition without being physically present there. He will officiate from another country through the use of live video coverage of the event.
In the 26 years or so of internationally ranked competitions, there have been fewer than 10 internationally ranked competitions on the American Continent. IAM has done about two or three of them in the US, and Memory League may have done four by now in the US as well. The World Memory Championships, in their 26 years of history have never set foot in a meaningful way anywhere in America, although they are now trying, perhaps because IAM has done a few competitions there recently already.
Here in Canada, we have slowly nurtured memory sports with our own resources and creativity. Since 2012, we have had a yearly competition to determine our own Canadian Memory Champion. Since 2014, we've also ran Provincial Memory Competitions nearly every month of the year. As a result of this effort, we now have 3-4 active Canadian memory athletes that have reached a very high level of performance, and they (Francis, Braden, Ezequiel) would like to be ranked internationally. We also have an experienced organizer (Darren) who wants to make an IAM competition a reality in Canada.
But IAM rules means you have to have a specially trained arbiter of high level present at the competition. Canada is home to no such arbiter, which means one would have to be flown from overseas to make this event internationally rankable. Now that is a pricey plane ticket. Just about any country in Europe, with a similar level of support for the sport that we now have would have no trouble finding an appropriate arbiter at a reasonable price.
To me, it suggests that regrettably, we aren't yet ready to hold an International IAM Open here in Canada but our top memory athletes are becoming understandably annoyed. So in an attempt to solve this problem, IAM have this pilot project going of long distance internet arbitration.
Personally, as the original organizer of the first Canadian Memory Championships, I wish to say that one of the things I really liked about memory sports is that they don't cost much. In our 2016 CMC held in Montreal, I was stunned to find out that 2 competitors had traveled all the way from Alberta to get a chance to become the new 2016 Canadian Memory Champion. Given this level of interest, we sought to have a simultaneous competition in 2017, one in Edmonton and the other in Montreal. It worked well. No one had to travel several 1000s of km to participate and we had more participants overall. I simply mailed instructions and the Memory Disciplines to a trusted volunteer in Edmonton who did a fabulous job as arbiter (by Canadian Standards) while I covered the arbitration for the Montreal event.
My opinion regarding long distance arbitration is that it opens the door to cheating. Yet, I don't think any one will try to cheat, so who cares? Isn't that a great point against my own argument? But if we don't care about arbitration, why have an arbiter present at all? Why not just mail the memory disciplines to the organiser and set it in a way that the memory athletes can test themselves by themselves? Surely that could be done.
Another possibility would be for the IAM to train by phone or/and video our own volunteer arbiter Hua Wei from Edmonton, who is a mental Math champion, and ask him to act as IAM arbiter, despite maybe not achieving the required level? I am in contact with him and he is eager and is not a supporter or friend of any contestant in particular. He can be expected to perform with integrity as he has a great reputation in the field of mental math competitions.
If you are afraid that he may recognize a new World Record by error or that he might end up being duped into recognizing a World Record by some cheat, then simply declare the Open Canadian IAM as an official competition but where Official World Records may not be set. No one is that good in Canada right now anyway, so it wouldn't bother any of the competitors. I admit that this might discourage the US World Champion, Alex, from coming to Edmonton but that might even be a good thing as we wouldn't know who will win.
Anyway, this isn't really a recommendation to the IAM Board but just my own comments regarding the development of memory sports in Canada.