Olympic Esports May Not Be As Far Off As Some People Think

The Olympic Games. The five rings. The ceremonies. The lighting of the torch. Faster, higher, stronger. The place where the likes of Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt and Carl Lewis first gained the world stage.

The Olympics have captured a world wide audience and held the gaze of the planet for more than a century. Even people who generally aren’t inclined to be sports fans have been known to find the games of the Summer Olympiad to be both all-encompassing and awe-inspiring.

Could the Olympics be the place where the players of Dota 2, CS:Go and League Of Legends also grow their legend? Would it be wise to take a recently-acquired online sportsbook bonus and wager that sum of this possibility becoming a reality? Is it realistic to actually ponder the notion that esports could be an Olympic sport?

Why, yes it is. And it could be much closer to happening than you might think. In fact, there is solid evidence to suggest that the inclusion of esports as part of the Olympic movement is nearer to a dream come true than it is to being a pipe dream.

"Esports Match" by Riot Games is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Olympic Virtual Series

The International Olympic Committee took a significant step toward the acceptance of esports by including it on the periphery of the Tokyo Olympic Games. The inaugural Olympic Virtual Series, an official licensed IOC event, the first-ever Olympic-licensed event for physical and non-physical virtual sports, was held in conjunction with the Summer Games.

As part of its build-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games, the IOC - the supreme authority of the Olympic Games and leader of the Olympic movement - introduced the landmark Olympic Virtual Series to inspire and mobilize virtual sport, esports and gaming enthusiasts all around the world, while encouraging the development of physical and non-physical forms of sports.

The IOC’s vision is to build a better world through sport. In creating a stage to connect the physical sporting world with the virtual and simulation sports gaming community, the OVS enabled participants to engage actively with the Olympic movement through competitive gaming initiatives, while championing physical activity and the importance of sport amongst young generations.

“The Olympic Virtual Series is a new, unique Olympic digital experience that aims to foster direct engagement with new audiences in the field of virtual sports,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. “Its conception is in line with the Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the IOC’s digital strategy. It encourages sports participation and promotes the Olympic values, with a special focus on youth.”

Updating the Olympic Ideals

Some look at sports that are included in the Olympic program such as fencing, archery, equestrian and the modern pentathlon and see sports that are either elite, out of touch with today’s society, or all of the above.

To their credit, the IOC is moving to be more inclusive to sports that attract the younger crowd. Surfing, sport climbing and skateboarding all made their Olympic debuts in Tokyo.

In the Winter Games, snowboarding and moguls skiing offer similar appeal to a younger audience.

"Esports Player" by Parade is licensed under CC BY 3.0

The Stumbling Blocks

Projections are that the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles could be the year in which the IOC opens its doors to esports as an Olympic event. However, it must be noted that there are still issues to be ironed out that could prevent this occasion from occurring.

The esports that were included as part of the Olympic Virtual Series were all virtual sports - auto racing, baseball, cycling, rowing and sailing. For example, the auto racing series was held via the Gran Turismo Sport video game.

IOC officials have made it abundantly clear that some of the most popular esports titles - games such as CS:GO and Call Of Duty - don’t fit with the Olympic ideals because the main objective of the games are violence and killing.

“I think it’s fair to say that we remain a sport-based and sport-focused organization,” the IOC’s sport director, Kit McConnell, told The Verge in an interview. “We’re looking to keep the Olympic Virtual Series focused around sport titles.”

On the other hand, the IOC likes money. And esports makes lots of money. This year, organized competitive video games are expected to generate more than $1 billion in revenue this year.