The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set its sights on a new frontier: the world of esports. In a groundbreaking announcement during the 141st IOC Session in Mumbai, India, IOC President Thomas Bach revealed that the newly-formed IOC Esports Commission is exploring the possibility of creating an Olympic Esports Games. This development builds on previous initiatives in the world of esports by the IOC, marking a significant step forward in bridging the gap between traditional sports and the rapidly growing esports industry.
The driving force behind this initiative is the staggering number of gamers worldwide. Bach highlighted the fact that an estimated 500 million individuals are deeply interested in esports, with the majority falling under the age of 34. Acknowledging the digital lifestyle of the younger generation, Bach emphasised the importance of incorporating their perspectives into the future of the Olympic Games, stating, “We must empower them to guide us with their young mindset.”
However, Bach underscored the IOC’s commitment to preserving its values throughout this venture, firmly stating, “There is a red line that we will not cross.” As a prime example of this commitment, he pointed to the International Shooting Sport Federation Island, a bespoke creation in Fortnite for the Olympic Esports Series that fully adhered to Olympic values.
The Olympic Esports Series, launched during June’s Olympic Esports Week, featured nine titles in its inaugural run. Notably, it veered away from traditional esports titles and instead focused on sports simulation games, including Virtual Regatta and Virtual Taekwondo. While the IOC celebrated the event’s success, garnering over 500,000 participants and more than 6 million views, many within the esports community criticised the selection of games as they did not conform to typical esports titles. Special Fortnite modes were introduced to the series two months after the initial lineup was announced.
Although specific details about the potential Olympic Esports Games remain shrouded in mystery, it marks a significant leap forward for the IOC in embracing esports. This initiative follows in the footsteps of the Olympic Esports Series and its precursor, the Olympic Virtual Series.
The Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF) welcomed the IOC’s announcement with open arms. The organisation emphasised that esports titles featured in the 2022 Asian Games underwent adaptations by their publishers to align with Olympic values. Mobile shooting games, such as PUBG Mobile, were rebranded as ‘Peace Elite Asian Games Version,’ while MOBA games, like Arena of Valor, became ‘Arena of Valor Asian Games Version.’ Both adaptations ensured that the games adhered to Olympic standards.
Furthermore, traditional esports titles like League of Legends and Dota 2 have already made their mark at the Asian Games. League of Legends initially featured as a demonstration sport in 2018 and later became a medal event in the 2022 games. South Korea’s League of Legends team secured military exemption for winning the gold in the 2022 event, underscoring the recognition and significance of esports in the world of sports.