As if to prove that the incredible rise in the popularity of eSports is no passing phase, the co-president of the Paris 2024 Olympic bid has confirmed that he and his associates are considering adding gaming to the programme of events in seven years’ time. This all comes on the heels of a major week for eSports as a whole.
Tony Estanguet told the Associated Press that he intends to hold talks with representatives from eSports, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), before rubber-stamping any such deal. This would certainly be a groundbreaking move for the Olympic Games and step towards technology based events.
While the IOC has been open-minded about adding new ‘physical’ sports to the programme, the addition of digital sports would represent an incredible coup for the industry. The continued rise of eSports has already piqued the interest of the Asian Games, where a demonstration-only inclusion in 2018 will be followed four years later by full medal status!
The decision as to who will host the 2024 Olympic Games will be confirmed in September at a ceremony in Lima, Peru. It's thought that Paris’ only competition for the prize, Los Angeles, has already pencilled an agreement to take the 2028 Games instead. Estanguet has previously spoken about the need for the Olympic Games to ‘stay relevant’ with a new generation and said that the introduction of eSports may go a long way towards accomplishing this feat.
"We have to look at it because we can't say, 'It's not us. It's not about Olympics. The youth, yes they are interested in eSports and this kind of thing. Let's look at it. Let's meet them. Let's try if we can find some bridges. I don't want to say 'no' from the beginning. I think it's interesting to interact with the IOC, with them, the eSports family, to better understand what the process is and why it is such a success."
Any new sports aiming to be considered for Olympic approval in 2024 need to be submitted in 2019, with a decision made by the IOC as to their inclusion (or otherwise) after the 2020 Games in Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee accepted five new sports in time for 2020 – baseball/softball, Karate, skateboarding, climbing and surfing – with a new consultation expected to be as robust for 2024; wrestling has already been confirmed to feature from 2024.
"There is some time to look at it, to interact, to engage. We will spend some time after Lima to engage with new people and stakeholders. The IOC will have the last say, if they want eSports on the program. Let's discuss among ourselves."
The efforts to see eSports recognised as a ‘real’ sport have been led by the International eSports Federation (IeSF), who have developed a number of tournaments to convince doubters that gaming is both a competitive and entertaining sport to play and watch. Major online bookmakers have also pitched in support offering eSports markets for all those tournaments.
There are now a whopping 47 member nations of the IeSF, with the vast majority of those sending participants to every Olympic Games in traditional sporting fields. While the likes of the UK and USA are absent, if the IeSF can persuade them to join by 2019 then the IOC will surely sit up and take notice of eSports’ continued growth.
The eSports World Championships were created by the IeSF to provide a global platform for players. In 2016 competitors battled it out for supremacy in Jakarta across a range of games including Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), League of Legends (LoL) and Hearthstone, the three most widely played.
Those punters with an eye for value will have already noted that South Korea won the 2016 eSports World Championships after seeing off a challenge from Finland. It was the sixth time in eight editions of the event that the South Koreans have taken the honours – Sweden in 2011 and Serbia in 2015 being the exceptions, with South Korea finishing runners-up on both occasions.
If the Olympic Committee does accept eSports into the Paris Games in 2024, plenty of punters will be looking to place their bets on South Korea to take the first ever gold medal. Of course, some leading nations are not members of IeSF, and so perhaps the eSports World Convention earlier this year provides some other clues.
The Call of Duty World League was won by the USA’s Optic Gaming crew, while the Clash Royale Open was claimed by the Netherlands’ Frank Oskam. The reigning CSGO and FIFA champions from the 2016 Convention are Germany (Alternate aTTaX) and France (Lucas Cuillerier) respectively. If you head over to Betway today, you can join the eSports betting action!