The possibility of video gaming as an Olympic sport was one of the topics explored in the Esports Forum held Friday in Switzerland.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) brought together 150 representatives from the esports and gaming industries to meet at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, including pro players/teams, game publishers, and media professionals, among others. Various representatives from National Olympic Committees, International Sports Federations, and even Olympic athletes, partners, and broadcasters attended as well.
While the topic of esports coming to the olympics was one of the topics up for discussion, the main intent was to explore areas of “commonality and potential collaboration” according to a news article from the official Olympics website.
The article notes that “an organization does not currently exist that represents esports globally and could align with the Olympic values, rules and regulations” which is why the bringing of esports to the Olympics was not “an immediate goal of the Esports Forum.”
IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell commented on the overall goals of the meeting.
“The Esports Forum was a unique opportunity to hear from a wide variety of stakeholders, including some of the top players themselves,” McConnell said. “There was a consensus that future collaboration will be based on ensuring that any activity supports and promotes the Olympic values; and while the goal was not to develop a pathway towards the inclusion of esports on the Olympic programme, 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 esports.”
So what’s next for esports and the Olympics? The IOC and GAISF will form an Esports Liaison Group to foster communication between the Olympic Movement and esports stakeholders and to continue discussing areas of possible collaboration. Once established, members of the Esports Liaison Group will be invite to present at the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires in October. Esports in the Olympics will also be discussed at the GAISF IF Forum, XXIII ANOC General Assembly, and is on the agenda for the Olympic Summit in December.
The earliest esports could make it to the Olympic games appears to be 2024, during the games to be held in Paris. The planning for which sports will be held at the 2024 games starts in 2019, and Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, has confirmed in an interview with The Associated Press that he will ensure gaming will be discussed as an option by the IOC and esports representatives.
So esports isn’t cemented as an Olympic sport just yet, but the industry is growing rapidly and creating new jobs— and not just for professional esports athletes. Some law groups have created divisions which specialize in legal issues surrounding the industry and some doctors have expanded their offerings to support esports athletes. Though we’re a long way from 2024, the esports industry does not appear to be slowing down before then, and gaming becoming a sport in the Olympic games could help the Games stay fresh and relevant for younger generations.