Esports and the Olympics: Why or Why Not

There is an evident split in opinions on whether esports should be an official event included in the Olympics. The reason is that the international sports event has always been about traditional sports.  

The big question of whether esports should be a part of the Olympics has divided fans into two groups. Where some believe that the Olympics have a tradition to adhere to, others believe that it is time for the Olympics committee to consider adding the new generation of games into the mix. Therefore, International Olympics Committee (IOC) has to weigh its options and need to adapt. The future of esports hangs in the balance on the outcome of the debate about why esports should or should not be an Olympic discipline.

Esports has turned into somewhat of a cultural phenomenon of the 21st century. Not just indulging in playing, but millions love to watch other players go head to head on livestreams and YouTube. There are global tournaments organized by individuals and companies, and gamers train harder to perform at a higher level. Esports has become increasingly competitive and demands both mental as well as physical strength. That is one reason why it is not a recognized sport.

Personally, I got into playing video games in my early teens. As a Millennial, it was the “Cool” thing to do. Therefore, I always wondered if this would ever become a mainstream event. Never did it cross my mind whether it should be an event in Olympics. So, as the argument caught fire with Olympics 2021 approaching, I started my research and would like to share why or why esports should be a part of this legendary contest.

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Why Not: The Conservative Approach

The reason is that there is a camp that believes in keeping the sanctity of the legendary Olympics intact. The primary issue is the recognition part missing, i.e., the world so far does not recognize esports players as athletes, and this comes with its own set of complications.

Firstly, because there is no local or global regulatory authority, these esports gamers are not official sportsmen. So, it will be difficult for them to obtain a visa under the athlete category when traveling for international tournaments such as Olympics.

A prime example of this predicament is Dota 2 tournament. Even known around the world for its large prize pool tournament, many gamers were unable to make it to Sweden due to failure to get a visa. Sweden basically refused to recognize esports as an official sports event.

This was a surprising (if not shocking) development because a significant number of esports players participants for various games come from Nordic countries, including Sweden itself. For example, the majority of professional gamers playing “Ninjas in Pajamas” hail from Sweden.

This is one reason why the game developer Valve had to change the location of their event and rescheduled pushing the date back to October 2021 in Bucharest, Romania. So, you can imagine the issue here; when Sweden, a country that is one of the pioneers in esports, is unwilling to give this niche an official recognition as sports.

Why Esports Should Be a Part of Olympics

Recognition or no-recognition, esports is the reality, and it is the future of sports. While the boomer generation from the post-war era had little to no concept of console gaming, let alone online gaming, it is one of the highest-grossing industries globally. This is where the demands on the current generation and times come into play.

As amusing as it may be, you cannot ask a modern-day person to only pick physical games as a means to show their competitiveness. Science has proven that playing games contribute to developing a person's cognitive skills and require intelligence.

This is one big reason that should persuade the officials of IOC to change their mindset. The integration of esports into the Olympics will not only give official recognition of being a sport to this niche but also bring an electrifying new category into the mix.

There will be armies of new gamers lining one after another to compete in various internationally recognized e-games. Esports do not require Olympics for growth; that point has come and gone long ago. The niche is international with massive viewership and is currently worth over $152 billion.

According to Statista’s report, over 436 million people said that they occasionally watched esports in 2020. According to industry pundits, this viewership will increase to a whopping 577 million by the time we are in 2024, the year of the next Olympics.

IOC’s Recognition Would Help

If the International Olympics Committee integrates esports as a sports event, it will finally bring a long-overdue recognition, not just the domain but also the gamers. It will ultimately help esports pros to compete at the same level as traditional sports athletes and get global praise by vindicating their hard work.

IOC has the power to improve the standards for esports and bring it to a level where it becomes exciting and engaging for a larger audience. This is something that most countries have been unwilling to do.

This is going to be beneficial for the future of both esports as well as IOC. The former needs esports more than ever, as no one knows how this COVID-19 pandemic will pan out in the next few years. So, esports seems to be inevitable.

Here Comes the Esports

Finally, there have been some signs by the IOC showing a promise that sooner or later, esports will be one of the main highlights of the Olympics of the future. Tokyo Olympics had a taste of esports, and it was sweet for many. The world, IOC, esports organizations, and players have time till 2024 to make the next global appearance. All stakeholders have enough time to settle their differences and draft a system to make the next experience as inclusive, interactive, and immersive as possible.

The Approved Virtual Series for Olympics

The IOC head Thomas Bach emphasizes that while the committee is open to the concept of bringing esports into the mix, they will select the types of competition with care. He does not see games like Call of Duty, PUBG, and Counter-Strike making it to the Olympics – well, at least for now. That said, here is a list of esports currently approved by the IOC.

·         Baseball – WBSC, i.e., World Baseball Softball Confederation

·         Cycling – UCI, i.e., Union Cyclist Internationale

·         eBaseball – Power Pro Baseball

·         Motorsports  - Grand Tourism/FIA

·         Rowing  - an open format

·         Sailing – Virtual Regatta

By adding these virtual games to the Olympics, the IOC has taken a giant leap, and it is safe to say that eventually see more esports by the next Olympics. An attempt is in progress to mobilize esports enthusiasts worldwide.

In order to make this a reality, there will be a new target group solely focused on the development of esports into making it an Olympics-level event. Daniel Luther, the president of ESBD, has recently highlighted how diverse esports variations can be. He believes there will be some great and exciting opportunities for point of contact esports, such as games related to shooters, strategy, and sports.

There are a lot of questions that may be difficult to answer at this point. However, the signs clearly indicate that esports should be and will be one of the mainstream events at the Olympics one way or the other.

BMW esports panel even made a suggestion that there is a possibility of their own version of the Olympics. You may see a different or customized version of esports Olympics independent from the existing IOC structure. Think of it as a separate official Olympics only focusing on esports and games.

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