In October 2017 the International Olympic Committee decided to recognize the eSports of competition as “sports physical activity” remarking, in addition, that professional gamers “train with an intensity that may be comparable to that of traditional sports athletes.” After this first declaration of intentions of the IOC, it was announced that eSports was going to be present outside the official program in the Korean winter games, as it was, and that the objective of the IOC is that they form part of the official program in the competition of Paris 2024.
In order to carry out this revolution of the Olympic movement, the IOC and the GAISF, the association of international sports federations, organized their first “eSports Forum” last July. An event that will change the history of the relationship between traditional and electronic sports. Esportia was present, together with the High Performance Center of Sant Cugat, in this exclusive event, which took place in the Olympic Museum of Laussane, and which brought together the highlights of Olympic sport and eSports. Pilar Calvo, responsible for the Internationalization Department of Esportia, and Josep Escoda, International Relations and Responsible for Innovation of the CAR and General Secretary of the International Association of High Performance Centers for Sport, shared, along with just over 100 attendees, an interesting debate about what both worlds can contribute to each other and how to fit the electronic sports into the Olympic movement.
Kit McConnell, Sports Director of the IOC, noted that “There was a consensus that future collaboration will be based on ensuring that any activity supports and promotes the Olympic values…we have a strong plan for ongoing dialogue and engagement, and are in a strong position to coordinate and support the wider engagement of the Olympic Movement with e-sports “. The IOC sees in eSports the best ally to rejuvenate the Olympic movement and, although the eSports industry does not need the IOC to continue growing, it is also true that its link with Olympism is seen as an opportunity. As Mike Morhaime, president and CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, said: ” From the Blizzard perspective, we looked at what our vision is as a company…and now what we say is that our vision is to bring the world together through epic entertainment “, a very Olympic idea.
One of the most striking statements came from Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, President of the ANOC, Association of National Olympic Committees: “In Korea, I was surprised when I was giving the medals … For the first time, disabled athletes can participate with the normal athletes in the game, as a single team, and win a medal. We do not have to have the Paralympic Games. In Esports, we can have both participate together in the same game”. And it also happens with men and women, who can participate inclusively. It is one of the values that e-sports have and that is a clear added value for the IOC.
During the “IOC Esports Forum” we were able to listen to the opinion of the publishers, the eSports federations, and the top leaders of the sports world. But it was especially interesting to check the chemistry that existed between professional gamers and Olympic athletes. Both commented that what for some is a profession for others is entertainment. A professional gamer prepares but also relaxes through sport and an athlete evades the tension of sports competition through gaming.
From an emotional point of view, eSports are seen as an opportunity to represent a country for those young people who might not be able to do so in traditional sports. But it has also been proven that through gaming, in eSports that clone traditional sports, you can promote the practice of that particular sport starting with electronic competition. It is an entrance door.
It will not be an easy collaboration. The e-sports, as perfectly explained the CEO of Riot Games, Nicolo Laurent, spend “millions of dollars per year in organizing their leagues and have been working for years the competition structures of this ecosystem. So if the IOC wants to enter in eSports, it must be done with time and well because we want it to remain a success“.
For Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, the challenge is to know “how to adapt the Olympic movement, with its slower timings, to the needs of eSports that can change the parameters of a videogame in weeks! But the best thing is that, in general, we share the same values and in such an individualistic world we have to be able to unite “.
In October 2018, the Youth Olympic Games will be held in Buenos Aires, where the IOC plans to resume the debate on the inclusion of eSports in the Olympic movement.