Will eSports Become an Olympic Sport?

Competitive gaming is becoming increasingly popular in the last couple of years, with an ever-growing audience watching and an ever-increasing number of professional gaming teams participating in various events. Last year, the finals of Intel Extreme Masters, the competition that pits the best players in the most popular top quality online games against each other, had a real-life attendance of 173,000 and more than 46 million online followers. And the League of Legends World Championships finals, taking place between September and November 2017, was followed online by more than 60 million viewers. And its ceremonial proceedings were on par with major events in the world of sports, sparking the interest of many bidders on the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Last April, the Olympic Council of Asia announced that eSports will be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games, hosted by China, after making its debut as a demonstration sport this year. The decision was taken in the light of the rapid development and popularity of eSports. “The OCA has always been committed to the inheritance, development, and improvement of Asian sports,” OCA president Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah said in a statement, cited by The Guardian. “And we look forward to the forward-thinking concepts of sports by Alisports, who will be helping us with their strength and experience in eSports.” Given that the Asian Games, the second largest multi-sport event in the world, will include eSports in 2022, indicates that it has a real chance to become a medal event at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

And the cause of including eSports among the other Olympic sports will be pushed forth by the head of the Paris bid committee, member of the International Olympics Committee Tony Estanguet. He promised to bring the matter of turning eSports into a bona fide Olympic sport in front of the IOC and push it through until the Olympic Games come to Paris in 2024. “We have to look at it because we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not about Olympics,’” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. “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.”

The decisions on which sports will be included in the 2024 Summer Olympics will be made sometime in 2019, with the final decision being taken after the 2020 Summer Olympics conclude in Tokyo. Until then – fingers crossed!