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Searching For The Golden Snitch At First European Quidditch Games


There will be quaffles, broomsticks and yes, a golden snitch zipping around the field this weekend in Sarteano, Italy. It's the inaugural European Quidditch Games with a dozen teams, from Catalonia to Norway to Turkey, competing for glory. Quidditch, of course, is the flying sport played by wizards and witches in the "Harry Potter" series and the movies.


LUKE YOUNGBLOOD: (As Lee Jordan) He's got the snitch. Harry Potter receives 150 points for catching the snitch.

ZOE WANAMAKER: (As Madame Hooch) Gryffindor wins.


BLOCK: This weekend's games will be the real-life terrestrial version for Muggles - those without magical blood. Karen Kimaki is tournament director for the European Quidditch Games, and she joins us now from Sarteano. Karen, why don't you explain how this game is played in real life?

KAREN KIMAKI: So it's fairly similar to how the books work. Obviously, the flight is the thing we haven't quite surmounted yet.

BLOCK: (Laughter) Haven't figured that part out.

KIMAKI: Yeah, no, we haven't quite gotten there. So the teams run around with brooms between their legs. If they fall off of the broom or they get hit by a bludger, they have to run back to their hoops to simulate falling off. But everything else is fairly similar. You've got the keepers guarding the goal hoops. The beaters would throw dodgeballs for bludgers and the main difference is we actually have no flying ball in the way of the snitch. We have a snitch runner who has a ball velcroed to the back of their pants and they run around and the seekers have to try and capture that.

BLOCK: So it's a ball velcroed to the back of their pants, that's the idea.

KIMAKI: Absolutely.

BLOCK: Well, tell me about the scene there in Sarteano, which it sounds like has really embraced this championship in trying to sort of turn the town into a mini Hogwarts.

KIMAKI: We got very lucky in Sarteano offering to host us. Every restaurant has, like, snitches hanging from ceilings. They've got the house signs everywhere. They built a platform nine and three-quarters in their main piazza. It's really quite impressive how welcoming they've been to us.

BLOCK: Is it pretty much the case that anybody who's playing in the Quidditch games is by definition a Harry Potter fan, has read the books, knows everything about him?

KIMAKI: Weirdly enough, no.

BLOCK: Really?

KIMAKI: When it first started, a lot of people were "Harry Potter" fans. I got involved 'cause I was a "Harry Potter" fan. And as the years have passed, in the U.S. there's actually a lot of people who would prefer to not be associated with "Harry Potter" and they want to be taken seriously. They consider this an actual sport.

BLOCK: What do you think it takes to be a great Quidditch player, if you are a Muggle?

KIMAKI: (Laughter) It does take a bit of training. There is a lot of running. It's a lot like soccer. There's not a whole lot of stoppage time. It takes some smarts. It's definitely grown into a very sort of mind as well as body sport.

BLOCK: Are there people there for the games who would harbor dreams of Quidditch one day becoming an Olympic sport?

KIMAKI: I would say that there are some people who probably share that opinion and that would be very happy to see that. For me, I don't personally care if we become an Olympic sport. I feel like that's a form of recognition I don't necessarily need to have to enjoy the sport itself.

BLOCK: What's it about for you?

KIMAKI: For me, I - I'm not the most athletic person. I stopped playing very quickly and just started switching to administrative tasks. But for me, it's the fact that it is so inclusive. It's the fact that you've got these athletes who quit football and rugby and soccer and ended up joining the sport next to complete nerds who you would never see necessarily running up and down the pitch but are perfectly willing to put hours in training for this sport. There's no judgment, and I love that. It's one of the few sports where that's actually the case.

BLOCK: Well, Karen Kimaki, it sounds like a whole lot of fun. Have a good time this weekend.

KIMAKI: I will, thank you.

BLOCK: Karen Kimaki is tournament director for the European Quidditch Games in Sarteano, Italy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.