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How many Quidditch World Cups have there been anyway?

How can this be the 427th Quidditch World Cup anyway?

Wait, how is it the 427th World Cup already?

For the past couple of months (according to The Daily Prophet in Pottermore) the 427th Quidditch World Cup took place in the Patagonia Desert in Argentina.  Since April 12, 2014, J.K. Rowling has been progressively giving us the story of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup through the voices of ace Quidditch correspondent for the Daily Prophet Ginny Potter, and more recently, Gossip Columnist Rita Skeeter.

While Steve may take issue with the media calling this new batch of fake newspaper columns a “Short Story.”  I personally have greatly enjoyed getting this view of the Wizarding World as it is today.  I really like getting to know bits and pieces of the wizarding world, especially getting our first real glimpse of the Wizarding World outside of Great Britain since Goblet of Fire showed us the 422nd Quidditch World Cup in Dartmoor and of course introduced us to the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.

Unfortunately bringing up the QWC has revived an old debate concerning the number of Quidditch World Cups there have been.  Quidditch Through the Ages tells that the cup was established in 1473 and has been held every 4 years since.  There are 2 problems with this, one of which Rowling has answered for us on Pottermore, the other we still have no answer for.

1994 not 1993?

The first of which has to do with the fact that if the game was started in 1473 and held every 4 years, the world cup would have been held in 1993 and 2013, not 1994 and 2014.  Thankfully Rowling answers this for us on Pottermore in “The Campsite” moment on Pottermore (Goblet of Fire Chapter 7, Moment 1) in her “History of the Quidditch World Cup” article.  She explains that for reasons unknown nobody remembers anything about the 1877 Quidditch World Cup (though events undoubtably did happen) and the International Confederation of Wizards’ Quidditch Committee (ICWQC) deemed it necessary to re-stage that tournament in 1878 and it has been held every 4 years since (making 1994 and 2014 actually make sense).

427 not 135?

Unfortunately her descriptions don’t explain how we could possibly be up to the 427th QWC in 2014 (or the 422nd in 1994).  If the first QWC happened in 1473 (which of course we must accept as true) and it has happened every 4 years, then we would be at the 135th Quidditch World Cup in 2014 which is considerably less than 427.  This leads us to conclude that at some point in the past the QWC must have been held a lot more often than every 4 years.

On Pottermore, Rowling mentions that many purists choose to date the inception of the world cup in the 17th century when it was expanded beyond Europe to include the whole world.  With that in mind we could theorize that before this point that the world cup was once held every year.  Since we now know that in 1877 there was no intention on holding a cup in 1878 we must assume that if this were true, that whatever year this was must have been a year that would continue to be an increment of 4 years before 1877.

The 17th Century Theory

If we go with the assumption that the last possible year of the 17th century which could be an interval of 4 years before 1877 was the year that it opened up to the entire world and switched to an every 4 year tournament, that would be 1697.  If the tournament was held every year from 1473 through 1697, than 1697 would be the 224th Quidditch World Cup.  This would make this year’s cup the 303rd.  Unfortunately that is still woefully short of 427th, we still need to account for another 123 games so this theory simply doesn’t pan out.

The 1877 Theory

Going by another theory, let’s assume that until 1877 the game was held every year, and it was only after all the chaos of having to redo the 1877 world cup in 1878 that they switched to every 4 years.  This would make this year’s cup the 438th cup, which is way too many, so that theory is also out.

The 2 Stage Change Theory

Perhaps a 2 step change in the Quidditch World Cup scheduling.  Perhaps at first the game was held every year, than moved up to every other year, and finally moved up to every 4 years.  Of course there are multiple ways this could work mathematically, but the simplest I can come up with is to assume that up until 382nd cup in 1855 the game was held every year, at which point the logistics of preparing for the increasing attendance of the world class tournament became difficult, and then it became a bi-annual tournament.

When the 1877 game had to be re-staged in 1878 the ICWQC needed a break before the next cup, so following the 1878 redone cup (which would have been the 393rd Quidditch World Cup) the schedule was switched to happen every 4 years instead of every other year.  Using this numbering system, we do arrive at 2014 being the 427th Quidditch World Cup which matches the numbering Rowling has given us.

The “I hate math” theory

Of course a simpler solution would assume that in the first couple centuries of the cup they didn’t bother numbering the cups.  At some point they decided to start numbering the tournaments and rather than actually doing math (which doesn’t seem to be a skill that Wizards care much for, with no sign of any math being taught to kids after they turn 11) to figure out what number they should be on, some wizard just went “Quidditch has been going on forever, I’ll just pick a really big number” and that became the official number of that cup and we’ve been counting ever since.

Regardless of how we get to 2014 being the 247th Quidditch World Cup, if you haven’t read all of the coverage of the 91 day tournament from the perspective of Ginny Potter, especially the nearly 3 hour final from Friday which had live commentary from Ginny and Rita Skeeter, you really should.  It was really exciting to see Harry’s world come to life in real time.

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  • Ken Grabach

    I hope this is not regarded as changing the subject a bit, but I have a question and a thought. My question is, why is Quidditch the only competitive sport we know of involving the Wizarding World? Ms. Rowling has said more than once she is not truly a fan of sport. She was obviously doing some satire on the English and Scottish passion for football (soccer in the US), and the arcane rules involved in assessing club standings through a season, national teams qualifying and then meeting for quadrennial tournaments, known as the World Cup. She was also quite pleased when she had written her last Quidditch match in Half-Blood Prince, and intentionally had Luna Lovegood commentating on cloud formations and imagined conditions such as Losers’ Lurgy. Hilarious. Ms. Rowling had it coming by making the game, it’s methods of play and rules, complex, to the extent she had a hard time keeping up, herself. The Quidditch World Cup, however many there have been, was a brilliant way to mirror something that encompasses the whole world and consumes the passions of many folk.

    Which is what brings me to the thought, and here there is a bit of subject change. Back to the question of other Wizarding sports, I suggest there have been some others, most specifically races. The main one, I believe surely the oldest, is Broom Racing. In fact, in canon this is alluded to with ‘racing brooms’ such as The Firebolt and the range of Nimbus brooms, and old classics such as the Silver Arrow of Madame Hooch’s fond memory. They are used in Quidditch. But if they are racing brooms, are there then no Broom Races? I suspect that there are, but like bicycle racing in the Muggle world, fewer people follow them with any sort of passion comparable to World Cup events.

    I suggest there are various one-day races, comparable to the grueling bicycle race called the Paris – Roubaix, in northern France. Surely there is a one-day race the length of Britain, the Land’s End – to – John O’Groats? It is a rather low altitude race, and includes some difficult passages such as crossing the Pennines ridge, the Peaks of Derby, and the Highlands leg, with its hills, glens and mountains, and notoriously bad weather. There are also multi-day stage races, such as the Tour d’Europe, with perennial stages over mountains, and stages that vary from year to year. Following major rivers for stages, such as the Seine, the Rhine, and the Danube would be included from time to time. Another, the infamous Giro Mediterraneo, occurs earlier in the season, as it involves more southerly routes. As it is earlier in the season, going over the Alps, and even on occasion when over the Atlas range of northwest Africa, racers can find some challenging weather, with sleet and snow. There are others, of course, but this gives some idea. Teams are sponsored by broom manufacturers and dealers, supplies makers, sellers, etc. It could be that Seekers, especially those who don’t stay in professional club Quidditch, turn to racing to continue their careers.

    There may also be thestral races and other events. I know little about the breeding of thestrals, so I have no idea what infrastructure might exist for this.

  • Nick Moline

    I would imagine that distance endurance races would be difficult to manage following the induction of the International Statute of Secrecy. While shorter races (think nascar or grand prix) make a lot of sense, you’d hide them the same way you hide Quidditch pitches, any sort of long distance race would be hard to hide from Muggles, especially with following major rivers or adding challenges of difficult passes.

    While you certainly make a good point that why would you make a “racing” broom if there weren’t broom races, I find it hard to believe any sort of long distance broom races would be possible to run under the Statute of Secrecy.

    • Ken Grabach

      I must say that this did occur to me. On the other hand, as Stan Shunpike says in regards to Muggles’ awareness of Wizarding things, “They don’t see nuffink.” And also on the other hand, secrecy is able to be applied to the World Cup finals, drawing as they do not only the teams involved, the sporting dignitaries, and an amplified commentator’s voice, there are the huge crowds of spectators and supporters, all kept out of the view of Muggles.

      Seems to me that some things could be worked out. Also routes are important as well. I think secrecy could be maintained. The Ministry’s true nightmare would be impromptu, unsanctioned races that don’t involve any interventions to maintain that secrecy.

      • Nick Moline

        But the World Cup finals are confined to a single remote space. The concept of doing an organized spectator laden long-distance race following major rivers or roads seems impossible to hide from view. As I said before, I’m sure they do short races, and I’m sure there are even some longer races, but they won’t be along major water or roadways.

    • Steve Vander Ark

      There’s always the annual broom race in Sweden from Kopparberg to Arjeplog, three hundred miles which include the dragon reservation. According to Quidditch Through the Ages, the event has been going on since the tenth century and is now an international event where “wizards of all nationalities congregate at Kopparberg to cheer the starters, then Apparate to Arjeplog to congratulate the survivors.”

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