The Olympics, a festival of supreme athleticism, hosted every four years to bring together the best of the best to slug it out in the most grueling competition to find out who is the greatest, the fittest and the strongest in the world. Meanwhile I’m eating pizza, drinking beer and playing FIFA in my house trousers...
Yeah gamer’s don't exactly have a reputation for being the most active of people, but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Whilst top esports players aren’t required to be physically fit, mentally they have to work just as hard if not harder than any other Olympic athlete. But the Olympics - it’s a bit of a stretch isn’t it? Well it’s actually not as far away as you might think.
A few years ago there was what was referred to as the ‘eGames’ showcase at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, in which several exhibition games of Super Smash Bros and Smite took place amongst a select invited group of esports players. But that was a small unofficial event, and it’s only been in the last couple of years that the idea of bringing esports officially into the world’s biggest sports tournament has been discussed.
In 2017 the committee for the 2024 Olympics in Paris first put forward the idea, but were quickly shot down by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) due to the violent nature of some competitive games like CS:GO. However, it didn’t take long for stances to start changing, starting with a Starcraft II event held during the Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018. This was the first time the IOC has officially endorsed an esports event, and it’s hardly surprising considering this is where esports really begun, and therefore the popularity would be of benefit in drawing new audiences to the Olympics. With hindsight it opened the floodgates for future tournaments to include esports at future events.
And next up is the Summer Olympics 2020 in Tokyo, another key hub for the world of esports, and therefore little surprise that the first backed esports event will be taking place a few days before the start of the main event. The Intel World Open will host Rocket League and Street Fighter V matches, with players competing for their countries for the chance to win a gold medal, and the status as Olympic champion.
But we’ve got huge esports tournaments already, with massive prizes and huge acclaim all around the world. Why does the Olympics matter? Well actually there’s several key reasons. For one it gives esports players an opportunity to represent their countries on the biggest stage. With virtually all esports events organized by teams or franchises, there’s little in the way of national competition for players to take part in. The Intel World Open hosts online qualifications for players to represent their countries, regardless of team or previous history.
The Olympics are also one of the most-watched events around the world, and bringing millions more eyes to the world of esports is surely not a bad thing. It will also help legitimize esports in the minds of many who denigrate the concept or see it simply as a hobby rather than a full-time profession. Being able to introduce those who do not understand this world or its growing popularity is something that can only benefit esports in the long run.
So it’s seemingly happening. It’s surely only a few years until esports up amongst the athletics, swimming, martial arts and dressage horse dancing thing...
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