eSports at the Olympics?

One day we could be watching eSports at the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) held an eSports forum with the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) on July 21 in Lausanne, Switzerland to further understand the industry of competitive gaming. The forum aimed to “explore synergies, build joint understanding and set a platform for future engagement between the esports and gaming industries and the Olympic Movement.”

150 stakeholders attended including players from a variety of esports titles, owners of esports organizations including G2 Esports’ Carlos “ocelote” Rodriguez, Blizzard president, CEO Nicolo Laurent, Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent and CEO Mike Morhaime and Echo Fox’s Rick Fox as well as representatives of major platforms and developers like Twitch.

IOC/GREG MARTIN
IOC/CHRISTOPHE MORATAL

The first step came last year when the IOC recognized eSports as a sports activity and this forum is the next. GAISF president Patrick Baumann said, “The eSports Forum provides an important and extremely valuable opportunity for us to gain a deeper understanding of eSports, their impact and likely future development, so that we can jointly consider the ways in which we may collaborate to the mutual benefit of all of sport in the years ahead.”

The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) was in talks with the organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympics about incorporating eSports as a demonstration sport at the Games. However, the IOC has no immediate plans to include video games as a competing sport in the Games due to the violent nature of eSports.

“We have to draw a very clear red line in this respect and that red line would be e-games which are killer games or where you have promotion of violence or any kind of discrimination as a content. … They can never be recognised as part of the Olympic movement,” Bach told reporters in April. “They would be contrary to our values and our principles.”

The IOC said last Wednesday the eSports forum is “purely an exploratory meeting.” Concluding the forum weekend, the IOC and the GAISF will now establish an Esports Liaison Group (ELG) to continue engagement between all three sets of major stakeholders. Additionally, esports will be discussed at the upcoming GAISF Forum, all 206 National Olympic Committees, and on the 2018 Olympic Summit.

Even though eSports may not be included in the upcoming Games, it will be included as a medal event for the 2022 Asian Games in China.

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