IOC announces plans to create Olympic Esports Games

16 October 2023


Arena of Valor Asian Games Version
Image credit: Asian Electronic Sports Federation

Olympics organising body the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced it is ‘exploring’ plans to create an Olympic Esports Games.

The IOC’s announcement was made during the 141st IOC Session in Mumbai, India, and builds on several previous Olympics initiatives in esports.

ESI London 2024

During the session, which was attended by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, IOC President Thomas Bach revealed that the newly-formed IOC Esports Commission has been asked to study the creation of an Olympic Esports Games.

Bach pointed to the estimated 500 million gamers who he said are “interested specifically in esports” as the impetus behind the move, and highlighted the fact many of them are under the age of 34 as key reasons for the initiative.

“The younger generation has a completely new way of thinking. They are living digital lives right now. We must not ignore their thinking if we do not want to jeopardise our own future. We must empower them to guide us with their young mindset.”

However, Bach stressed the importance of retaining the IOC’s values, which he described as a “red line that we will not cross” with regard to possible esports titles to be included. He cited the bespoke International Shooting Sport Federation Island created in Fortnite for this year’s Olympic Esports Series as an example of a publisher adapting their game to “conform fully with our Olympic values.”

The Olympic Esports Series — inaugurally held during June’s Olympic Esports Week — is an esports event run by the IOC that featured nine titles during this year’s iteration. The featured games veered away from traditional esports titles, instead focusing on sports simulation with events such as Virtual Regatta and Virtual Taekwondo among those included.

Bach hailed the series as a success, claiming that it gained more than 500,000 participants and more than 6m views, most of which were from viewers between the ages of 13 and 34. “This was a promising start. But it is just that: a start. It is like in any sport: after even a promising start, the real race still lies ahead.”

However, the Olympic Esports Series drew derision from many in the esports community due to the fact that most of the games chosen were not esports titles. The special Fortnite mode was added to the Olympic Esports Series two months after the original lineup was announced.

Details about what the Olympic Esports Games might include or how it would be formatted were not revealed. The creation of an Olympic Esports Games would be a further step forward into esports for the IOC, after the Olympic Esports Series and its predecessor the Olympic Virtual Series.

The Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF) reacted positively to the IOC’s announcement. The body highlighted that existing esports titles that were used during the 2022 Asian Games esports events followed adaptations by their publishers.

“AESF has collaborated with publishers on the adaptation of popular mobile shooting games, such as PUBG Mobile, which was renamed as ‘Peace Elite Asian Games Version,’ as well as MOBA games, such as Arena of Valor, which was renamed as ‘Arena of Valor Asian Games Version,’ during the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou. Both of the adaptations have been made to comply with Olympic values.”

Traditional esports titles including League of Legends, and Dota 2 have already been adopted by the Asian Games, the former first as a demonstration sport in 2018 and both later as medal events for the 2022 games. Notably, South Korea’s League of Legends team — featuring Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok — gained military exemption for winning gold in the 2022 event.

Lee Jones