How Soon Could We Be Betting on eSports at the Olympics?
Introducing eSports to the Olympic Games now seems inevitable after yet another IOC summit recognised their worth as a potential medal event.
Leading members of the Olympic Movement met with the IOC at the seventh annual Olympic Summit in Lausanne, with eSports and the eGames becoming one of the most hotly-discussed topics.
The conclusions drawn suggest we could be betting on eSports at the Olympic Games in the near future, and perhaps at Paris 2024 - though definitely not at Tokyo 2020.
'Competitive Gaming is Physical'
Increasing the Olympics' appeal to younger generations is a core thinking amongst Olympics organisations of late, with the Tokyo 2020 committee including skateboarding and surfing among five new sports to their Games scehdule, for example, in a bid to achieve this.
With so many young people's attentions consumed by the digital space, the same bodies have also been keenly researching eSports and whether they actually do fit in with the Olympic Movement.
The Summit agreed that the Olympic Movement should not ignore [eSports] growth, particularly because of its popularity among young generations around the world. It was agreed that competitive gaming entails physical activity, which can be compared to that required in more traditional sports. This, on the other hand, cannot necessarily be said to apply to leisure electronic gaming.
Clearly violent eSports games do not, and the summit stressed to all involved in the Olympic Movement to respect their decison that inclusion as a medal event is "premature".
But Simulation Games Are Fast-Tracked
Reservations that the summit had about some eSports games, including games not being "compatible with the Olympic values", and the industry as a whole being "commercially-driven", it said did not apply to eSports simulation games.
The summit voiced support for video games that directly mimic sports, this area having already taken off in the leisure gaming sector, but now entering the professional market with events like the eFootball.pro League - which Barcelona FC's own eFootball squad joined in March this year.
There was call for "accelerated cooperation" with these virtual games, and the members asked international sports federations to actively research the potential benefits and applications of the electronic and virtual versions of their sports.
Though this request did come with strict caveats, that could cloud the real purpose of the IOC's many discussions about eSports.
- While ensuring IFs gain or retain appropriate control over the electronic/virtual versions of their sports; and
- Restricting their engagement to activation in the e-versions and virtual forms of their traditional sports.
The IOC and Global Association of International Sports Federations will now invite stakeholders of the eSports industry to a liaison group to explore jointly collaborative projects.
Japan Still Pushing Esports
Last weekend's summit confirms there will be no medal events for eSports at the Tokyo 2020 Games, but Japan is pushing for an exhibition of esports at the 2020 Games, having inaugurated the Japan Esports Union in January.
“We think elevating the recognition of esports is one solution in making an approach to the International Olympic Committee or the Japanese Olympic Committee," said union chair Hideki Okamura at a news conference in Tokyo.
Following legislative changes to anti-gambling laws that prevented eSports growth in the digitally-forward nation, it has grown the market by 13 times from 2017 to 2018, eSports now valued as a ¥4.8 billion industry, with projected growth to ¥10 billion by 2022.
Globally, it's worth is estimated at $900million, with economists predicting that could rise to 1.5billion in 2019, and nowhere more so than in Asia.
Esports debuted as a demonstration event at the Asian Games in Indonesia this summer and will be a full medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
eSports has been growing a link to the Olympics since the eGames - 'Olympics for eSports' - ran an exhibition showcase alongside Rio 2016. Five South Korean players were then part of the Olympic Torch relay at the 2018 Winter Olympics, where another exhibition event was held.
So, Esports at Paris 2024?
The Paris 2024 Olympic Committee have held talks about including eSports as soon as that European Games, with Japan's expansion based on the possibility of medals being available there.
Paris's talks were inclusive, but as balanced as those that occured at this weekend's summit, with eSports inching closer to recognition as an Olympic event.
The IOC's willingness to continue to further talks with Olympic Organising Committees and sports federations shows that there is every possibility Paris 2024 will include Esports, but it has been said that no decisions will be finalised until after Tokyo 2020.
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