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eSports: An Olympic Sport?

By Jason Lee in Sports
| June 23, 2017 12:00 am PDT
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I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my jaw hit the floor when I heard this one. The International eSports Federation (IeSF) submitted a request in 2016 to begin the process of getting eSports included in the 2020 Olympics. While some of you may think it a joke or something the Olympic committee wouldn’t take seriously, you would be wrong.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) responded to the request with the process and paperwork to begin the filing process to have eSports included in the Olympic Games in 2020. That’s right; this process now officially has a chance to move through the selections and be chosen to be included. While this process is not an easy one and one that a lot of sports have tried and failed, it definitely means the movement is real and being pushed.

“Up next after the 100-meter dash will be the League of Legends gold medal match.”

This is not the first move towards having eSports included in the Olympic Games. The Olympic Council of Asia has announced that eSports will be an official medal event in the 2022 Asian Games. eSports games will be played as well in the 2018 Asian Games but only as a demonstration event to build up hype for the first official games in 2022.

For reference, the Asian Games is the second largest worldwide tournament only surpassed by the Olympics. In 2014, the games had 10,000 participants throughout all of the events. Backing for this move is coming from a lot of areas, but the biggest known backer is Alisports, a subsidiary of Alibaba who is basically the Amazon of China. Their commitment of over $150 million dollars so far has helped to propel the discussion to the foreground and hopefully move eSports to the official Olympic games in 2020.

Typical Responses to eSports in the Olympics

Now, I can imagine there are two main responses to this announcement and that you the reader most likely fall into one or the other. On the one hand, some people are probably extremely excited about this and see it as a huge step for eSports. Not only is it exciting for players and fans, but it stands to be a massive moneymaker for a lot of different industries including the Olympics itself.

On the flip side, a lot of people think that the idea is silly and that eSports aren’t a real sport. Personally, I can understand their objections and confusion as to why video games would be included in the Olympics. However, the Olympics were originally designed to test people’s skills at the things they had to do at the time.

In a now heavily technological world, we have new skills that people can prove they are the best at. An Olympic sport that takes a lot of flak is curling. People question why it is in the Olympics, but the argument in its defense is the same for eSports. Curling requires lots of hand-eye coordination that’s being tested. eSports requires an insane amount of hand-eye coordination and is a good argument for why it should be in the Olympics.

My Take on It All

I see both sides of the argument here. For one, eSports is insanely popular and would do wonders for the popularity and longevity of the Olympics. Revenues would increase, and a lot of people who don’t normally watch the Olympics would suddenly be interested and drawn in.

On the flip side of the coin, most Olympic sports have always contained some degree of physical fitness. The key word here is most. People tend to forget about sports like shooting for example that require the exact same amount of physical exertion as ant eSports game. I personally can’t find any decent argument as to why eSports shouldn’t be in the Olympics that wouldn’t be thrown out because shooting is in the Olympics.

Honestly, I say let them in. The more, the merrier and the more longevity the Olympics will have. I can give you an awesome example of something similar that happened in the poker world. The World Series of Poker is a series of 50-60 poker tournaments run every summer in Las Vegas, Nevada where the best of the best come together to compete to prove their worth at the game of poker.

The buy-ins for the games were always at least $1000. This was initially thought by many to “protect the integrity of the game” to keep out the “riff-raff.” The angry pros didn’t want anyone to be able to slide into tournaments for cheap and win a bracelet (their form of trophy) for any lower of a buy-in. Well, the WSOP decided that they wanted to run $500 and $300 tournaments to bring in more people and get some new faces interested in the game.

A lot of the pros lost their minds about this. They thought it was desecrating the game and belittling the championship events they had. Here’s what happened. The WSOP introduced the tournaments, and every other tournament grew in size. The entire “ecosystem” of the game grew, and the popularity continued to rise. As for those grumpy pros, they got quite about it fast because the lower buy-in events brought in a lot of recreational players for every event during the WSOP.

Basically, everything and everyone benefited from including something to include more people. I see this being the same as eSports. Including it might make a few people grumble, but it’s going to be good overall for the Olympics. I guarantee people tuning in to watch eSports will watch some of the other sports and become new fans.

Eventually, the Olympics is going to have to adapt. I believe it can adapt to the changing times while still maintaining the sanctity and history of the event. My vote is a yes for eSports in the Olympics.

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