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Inside Events: World Jigsaw Puzzle Federation

10 Sep, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Alfonso Alvarez-Ossorio, President

worldjigsawpuzzlechampionship.com

One side effect of the pandemic-imposed quarantine this year has been the revival of interest in mind sports; in fact, crossword puzzles, sudoku and word jumbles have skyrocketed in popularity. Jigsaw puzzles have also seen great popularity among both families and individuals. The World Jigsaw Puzzle Federation, which puts on its international championship each year (the next will be held in September 2021 and will be hosted in Spain), has noted the uptick in participation, and  Alfonso Alvarez-Ossorio, its president, spent some time with SDM to discuss this phenomenon and what it means to the organization and its events.

Sports Destination Management: What is the World Jigsaw Puzzle Federation?
Alfonso Alvarez-Ossorio: The World Jigsaw Puzzle Federation is an association of entities and communities from different countries that share a common interest in jigsaw puzzles. It is currently represented by more than 50 countries.
The objectives of the WJPF are:
• Organize and supervise the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship (WJPC) and other activities.
• The recognition of jigsaw puzzle competitions as a sporting activity.
• Establish a standard on rules and regulations for jigsaw puzzle competitions and other considerations about your organization to take into account.
• Foster friendship between jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts around the world.
• Stimulate innovation in the field of jigsaw puzzles.

SDM: How long has the World Federation of Puzzles been around?
Alvarez-Ossorio: The idea of a world federation was born in 2010 among a group of fans from Spain, France, Belgium and Russia after participating in an international charity competition, with the idea of organizing a world tournament with criteria approved and recognized by the community. in order to determine the most skilled people in the world in this discipline. In 2019, this goal becomes a reality thanks to the unconditional support of the Ravensburger brand, as well as the rest of the international delegations and the experience acquired by the Spanish representation after organizing eight national championships.

SDM: Have you seen interest in puzzles since the arrival of COVID-19?
Alvarez-Ossorio: The COVID pandemic has forced all of us to minimize contact with other people and spend much of the day in our homes. The assembly of jigsaw puzzles has proven to be one of the great remedies around the world to cover this time. It is an easy to get, inexpensive product, with a great variety of models, types and sizes, you can always find a puzzle that suits your tastes and needs. And they can also be done as a family, as a couple or alone. And if that were not enough, there are all the beneficial aspects for health that are widely recognized in people who practice this hobby, exercise memory, improve self-esteem, delay senile diseases such as Alzheimer's, etc. Many families have found that it can be a very rewarding group activity that encourages reunion for all household members and provides countless hours of entertainment.

SDM: Do you think more people are doing puzzles and that they could become competitors?
Alvarez-Ossorio: All puzzle championships have a popular component that invites any unpretentious person to participate with the sole requirement of enjoying assembling a puzzle together with other people who practice the same hobby. This spirit is what really pushes most of the people who come together to participate and is the true soul of jigsaw puzzle championships, for this reason, anyone who has made a puzzle is already a competitor.
From there, each one establishes their own goals, for some it may be to finish the jigsaw puzzle before the maximum time granted by the organization, to improve the position in the classification compared to previous editions, or simply to enjoy the puzzle calmly.
As in any other sports discipline, those who have been practicing and participating in competitions for the longest time are favorites for the top positions.

SDM: How can interested locations can bid for an event or participate?
Alvarez-Ossorio: In order to participate, it is only necessary to have reached the age of 16 during the current year, complete and send the registration form within the established period (from January 1), and finally pay the corresponding fees according to the category. The fees are equal to the value of the jigsaw puzzles delivered in the competition and that the participants keep. It is not necessary for the participant's country to be part of the list of member countries.

SDM: How many championships does the organization host?
Alvarez-Ossorio: The federation only organizes the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship, but also collaborates with some associations of member countries in the organization of the Championships in their respective countries.

SDM: Where have you hosted them?
Alvarez-Ossorio: The first WJPC held took place in Valladolid (Spain). Jigsaw Puzzle competitions with the organizational level of the WJPC, standardizing rules, using unpublished jigsaw puzzles, with live commented TV broadcasts, etc., are something completely new. Currently, this level has only been reached in Spain, but in the future they will be common in other countries thanks to the organizations that are emerging right now.

SDM: How many people attend them, both as competitors and as spectators?
Alvarez-Ossorio: In 2019, 700 people from 40 countries participated. In the 2020 edition scheduled for September that had to be canceled by COVID, the expected participation was 1,200 people of 60 nationalities. The competition is open to the public, and you can follow the evolution of the competition after the limited area and also from different screens with the live broadcast. In 2019, during the two days of competition, thousands of spectators entered the venue and were also able to visit the exhibition of ancient jigsaw puzzles (from the 17th century to the present).

SDM: Are these championships open or do people qualify for them locally, regionally and nationally?
Alvarez-Ossorio: Currently the format is open, and as participation grows, qualifying series and a final test will be established in some categories. The organization, for the moment, does not contemplate limiting participation, although it establishes participation quotas by countries to guarantee maximum international representation.

SDM: Are there different age groups / levels of difficulty?
Alvarez-Ossorio: The three categories currently provided, teams, pairs and individual, are suitable for anyone over 16. All participants in each test must assemble the same jigsaw puzzle, so no difficulty levels are established within each category.

SDM: How does the organization choose the hosts for its events (or return to the same venues)?
Alvarez-Ossorio: At the moment Valladolid has been established as the headquarters of the WJPC because it has all the necessary requirements, which are currently based on the support of institutions and the organizational capacity contrasted in national tournaments of the host country. The specifications are available to the members of the WJPF, and it is the federation itself, through its governing body, who determines the location of the WJPC.

SDM: If a destination would be interested in hosting an event, should they contact their federation?
Alvarez-Ossorio: Yes, the WJPF as the main organizer of the WJPC determines the location based on the proposals received.

SDM: How does the organization chooses locations for its events (i.e. what factors are involved in decision-making)?

Alvarez-Ossorio: The weight of the decisions falls on the Management Body, which is renewed every 2 years among the members with voting rights, determined by the economic contribution of each country.

SDM: Is there a specific demographic at the events as they attract more men, women, youth, etc.?
Alvarez-Ossorio: The mean age of the last WJPC was 36.71 years, and 71% of the participants were women. Of the top 10 finishers in 2019 in the individual category, eight were women, including the reigning champion, Jana Hanzelková (Czech Republic). In the team category, the first three classifieds were made up entirely of women in their starting lineup. There is no doubt that women, to date, have been shown to be notably better than men at assembling jigsaw puzzles.

SDM: Any other relevant information about the event?
Alvarez-Ossorio: The WJPC awards 4,000 euros (a little more than $4700) in prizes and distributes 1,000 puzzles among the participants valued at more than 15,000 euros (almost $18,000). The puzzles used are new for next year, meaning they have not yet hit the market, so no participant knows before the tests which image will be found. All the tests are streamed through YouTube and social networks.

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