For the first time in history, an electronic sport title or ‘video game’ was played alongside the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Intel partnered with the International Olympics Committee and held an Intel Extreme Masters Startcraft II tournament.
No, Starcraft II is not an Olympic event yet. But this tournament received partial support of the IOC and took place on 7th February, just two days before the opening ceremony of The Winter Games. One could say, that esports is getting the chance it deserves to determine its place at an Olympic event. Very soon, the tides may indeed change in our favour.
Sasha ‘Scarlet’ Hostyn made history by not only becoming the first female winner of a major, global tournament; but also by becoming the first person to win an esports competition being held in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee.
Sasha 'Scarlet' Hostyn playing Starcraft II at IEM Pyeongchang
Photo Credits: ESL / Intel
However, alongside Starcraft, Intel also held an exhibition event for demoing Steep : Road to Olympics, Ubisoft’s officially licensed Olympic Winter Title. The game will be set up throughout the Olympic Village for attendees and athletes to try out.
The other important question that a lot of people have in mind is the whereabouts of other popular esport titles like CS:GO and DOTA 2.
Esports at the Olympics have been a topic of discussion of the IOC, which has mixed reviews coming from the committee. The committee suggested that esports are sports, but must not infringe upon Olympic values. In August 2017, Thomas Bach, the IOC President stated:
This probably reduces the chances of games like Counter-Strike to make it to get an Olympic status. However, Bach conceded that sport games like FIFA and Steep could one day make it to the games. There is little we can do to predict what the future of esports will look like, when compared vis-à-vis traditional sports. Luckily, we won’t have to wait too long to find out. Other sporting events aren’t waiting for the IOC to change its mind. Esports will be welcomed at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia and the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. If and when VR esports becomes popular, its added physical activity might change that discussion as well.
A partnership between Chinese internet giant Alibaba and the Olympic Council of Asia helped make it happen at the second largest multi-sports event following the Olympics.
In January, Alibaba also entered into a long-term partnership as a worldwide Olympic partner through the 2028 games. A push from the company, which plans to invest $150 million into esports over the next few years, to include esports in upcoming Olympic games would not be unprecedented.
Ralf Reichert, founder and CEO of ESL, said
We are on the verge of a massive demographic shift. Video games went from being a source of entertainment to a source of livelihood for some players in the last decade. Tony Estanguet, Paris’s Olympic committee co-chair, in an Associated Press interview, “We have to look at it because we can’t say ‘its not us’. The youth, yes they are interested in esport. Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges.”
Will there be a day where esports will be as mainstream as traditional sports? Or does this statement imply that maybe esports will be bigger than some traditional sports? I guess, we’ll just have to wait and watch. While your parents may not digest everything written in this article, the younger generations sure might!