eSports could be added to the Olympic programme as an official medal sport as early as 2024 when the games head to Paris, France.
To be worthy of an Olympic event is to have gained the respect and recognition of the wider sporting community. In recent years, previously marginalised sports such as trampolining and table tennis have transitioned from leisure activities to legitimate contests, eSports may be the next form of Olympic evolution.
Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris bid committee, confirmed that he will consult the International Olympic Committee and eSports representatives about the inclusion of eSports as a medal event in seven years’ time.
— Tony ESTANGUET (@TonyESTANGUET) June 23, 2017
Paris is set to be confirmed as the host city of the 2024 Olympics when the IOC meet next month in Lima, Peru. Paris’ lone competitor Los Angeles, will be simultaneously announced as the host for the 2028 Games.
It has long since been the ambition of the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) and other eSports groups to introduce the global phenomenon onto the Olympic stage.
Earning a seat at the table of the Olympic family is no mean feat, with years of lobbying and campaigning all part of the arduous process. In the face of mainstream media negativity, the IeSF submitted their application to the International eSports Committee at the close of 2016.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Estanguet remarked:
“We have to look at it because we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not about Olympics.’
“The youth, yes they are interested in eSport 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.
“There is some time to look at it, to interact, to engage.
“We will spend some time after Lima to engage with new people and stakeholders. The IOC will have the last say if they want eSports on the program.”
Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris bid committee
In April, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) announced that eSports will be given the status of a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in China, perhaps the most significant step in recent years towards mainstream recognition of competitive gaming.
The International e-Sports Federation previously put forward the case that physicality is not the only factor that defines sports, indeed there are a number of sports featured on the Olympic list that would be erased if gross motor skill and dynamic activity were a requirement to be considered a legitimate sport.
The Olympic charter itself is notably vague about what constitutes as a sport. Recognition stems from conforming with the Olympic Charter and implementing the World Anti-Doping Code, measures the eSports scene is fast adopting. eSports already fulfils the criteria for legitimacy applied to other sports accepted by the IOC.
Given the Olympics’ insatiable appetite for ratings and social relevance, the inclusion of eSports seems like the perfect mouthpiece through which to breathe new life into the games.
The eSports fan base already consists of millions of enthusiasts from around the world, growing near-exponentially year on year. Taking the opportunity to translate this audience into the Olympics structure would likely bring a surge in ratings.
Olympic recognition would be the final weight to tip the balance of eSports’ public opinion – previously marginalised by the mainstream, weighed down by the negative connotations of a basement hobby – evolving to become the potential salvation of sport’s most historic event.