Is esports on the verge of becoming an Olympic reality?

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International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has revealed plans to organise an esports summit at Lausanne, Switzerland at the end of July with an aim to set up dialogues among the key stakeholders of the global esports and gaming community.

The statement from IOC president comes after the Asian Esports Federation announced the six esports titles, which will become part of the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games in August. Esports will feature as a demonstration event, a move that will be counted as a first for it to be included in a mega-sport quadrennial event.

Esports was also a part of Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games-2017 at Ashgabat as a demonstration sport

So, the following questions aptly rise during the times when esports is growing beyond a billion-dollar global industry to a recognised medal sport.

Is esports on the verge of becoming the part of the Olympic movement?

Will winning Olympic medals on popular video game titles on PC, Xbox and PlayStation become a reality?

Will the idea of gamers operating the controls on their consoles at lightning speed become the future of mass spectator sports?

Part answers to the above were justified when an esports competition was organised as the dry run to the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. Tech giant Intel, who is also the worldwide TOP partner of IOC, had organised its flagship event – Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) featuring Blizzard Entertainment’s iconic real-time strategy game, ‘StarCraft II’, ahead of the winter games. Eighteen players from regions around the world were in the fray for the $150,000 prize pool.

The possibility of esports’ Olympic inclusion got a major boost when IOC members had acknowledged the legitimacy of esports as a sporting activity at the last year’s Olympic Summit in Lausanne. IOC along with the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF, formerly SportsAccord), have since then have been working together to explore the esports industry further.

The attendees of the last year’s Olympic Summit were hopeful that Paris 2024 may possibly become the first Summer Olympics edition to include esports. However, a formal nod in this regard is still awaited. The Paris Olympic Bid Committee members had also expressed their openness to include esports in the 2024 games. The 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China will be etched in the history for being the first quadrennial multi-sports event to include esports as a medal sport.

Bach has, since the beginning, taken a tough stand on the violent games such as Counter Strike, Quake Champions, Overwatch, League of Legends etc. Bach had earlier said that the content of esports, with special reference to the violent games, must not infringe on the Olympic values of peace, solidarity, non-discrimination, non-violence. Therefore the game title that are about violence, explosions and killings may never become a part of the Olympic roster.

The former Olympic fencer, keeping on with his reservations against violent games has recently said “We need to draw a red line and make it clear that killer games can never be part of the Olympic Movement. After all, the IOC is a ‘value-oriented organisation’. Game titles like Fifa, the basketball simulation NBA 2K as well as tennis and sailing games could, therefore, be an option.”

Bach is, however, convinced that esports is clearly an exciting and growing sector in which millions of young people worldwide regularly engage in and the Olympic Movement cannot ignore such a phenomenon by any means.

The esports summit announced by Bach in July will be a lead up to esports’ Olympic inclusion through which IOC will aim to draw more insights on the esports industry by connecting with leading stakeholders. “The idea is to enter into a dialogue with the gaming industry and the athletes and, in due course, approach the stakeholders of the Olympic Movement again,” Bach was quoted as saying by Sport1, further strengthening the possibly of esports being included in future editions of the Olympic Games.

With strong support from corporates, big MNC brands, lucrative sponsorship deals, and growth of popular esports series/championships around the world such as ESL, Blast Pro, the industry is being driven forward in the right direction with huge leaps and bounds. Corporate giants like Alibaba is the name behind esports’ entry into the Asian Games. Jack Ma owned Chinese e-commerce giant had earlier committed a $150 million investment in the E-Sports through its Alisport division, which includes $ 5.5m investment in tournaments.

Alibaba, which is also an IOC TOP partner, has reportedly invested $800 million to support the Olympic Games through 2028, one of the most expensive sponsorship deals signed in the history of sports. Alibaba’s strategic alliance with IOC as well as Olympic Council of Asia will surely set the environment conducive to the dreams of the million gamers around the worldwide.