The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is to discuss the possibility of esports entering the competition at the 2024 Games in Paris.
The Paris bid team is keen to discuss the potential of esports being added to the programme with the IOC. The move would aim to appeal to some of the legions of typically younger fans of esports tournaments.
Total esports viewership last year commanded an audience of around 320 million people worldwide, and the industry generated £400 million in revenue, according to market research firm Newzoo. In April of this year, it was announced by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) that esports will be a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in China.
Esports will also feature at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, and its success there will likely prove crucial for it to be seriously considered for the Paris Olympics, with their programme beginning to form in 2019 and games selection finalised in 2020.
One man who will be pivotal to the inclusion of esports is Thomas Bach, President of the IOC. He held some – perhaps understandable – reservations about the viability of esports’ inclusion in a discussion with Inside the Games in April. “We are not yet 100% clear whether esports is really sport,” he said, identifying the lack of physical activity as a potential issue. On the flip side, he did point towards esports’ “high engagement from the youth”, which could prove to be a considerable boon for the Games in its bid to reach a younger demographic.
Paris 2024 Co-President Tony Estanguet was more positive. “We have to look at it because we can’t say, ‘it’s not about Olympics’. The youth are interested, so let’s meet them,” he told the AP news agency.
“I think it’s interesting to interact with the IOC and the esports family to better understand what the process is and why it is such a success. There is some time to look at it, to interact, to engage. I don’t want to say ‘no’ from the beginning.” However, he did admit that its the IOC who will have the last word on the verdict.
Paris’ hosting of the 2024 Games is expected to be officially ratified at an IOC congress in Lima, Peru in September. Los Angeles’ claim on the 2028 Games should also be confirmed at the same meeting.
Esports Insider says: Once the decision is made for esports to be included at a Games, it’s hard to see that privilege being revoked for future Olympic competitions. We’re sure we’re not alone in hoping that the IOC approaches this with an open mind, as it would be a fantastic endorsement of esports to be seen on the Olympic stage.