Video game competitions could enter Olympics

Game on: 43m people watched the 2016 World Championships of the game League of Legends. © Getty

Should eSports be in the Olympics? Professional video game contests are bigger than ever. Now the International Olympic Committee is considering adding them to the 2024 Paris games.

Across the world athletes are pushing their bodies to the limits, training on tracks and in gyms — all chasing dreams of Olympic glory. However, a new generation of Olympic superstars could have very different training regimes.

That is because professional video game competitions, known as eSports, could soon feature in the games.

At a summit on Saturday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) discussed the move. In a statement it claimed that professional video game players “train with an intensity which may be comparable to athletes in traditional sports”. It stated that eSports could engage the “youth demographic” with the Olympic movement.

Millions of devoted fans already follow eSports. They gather in huge arenas to watch teams battle it out in first-person shooters, multiplayer battle games, and virtual sports matches. The best players can earn millions of dollars.

Traditional sports teams are also getting in on the action. Last year Manchester City football club signed their first ever player to represent them in the video game Fifa. And this month NBA team the Cleveland Cavaliers paid $13m to join the North America League of Legends Championship. In the 2022 Asian games, eSports will have its own event.

The eSports industry is expected to make $696m this year, reaching a total audience of 385m people. And by 2020 eSports could be worth a staggering $1.5 billion.

With its popularity booming, it is unsurprising that the IOC has taken notice. And whilst computer games may initially appear unsuitable for the Olympics, there is a rich history of seemingly non-traditional sports becoming Olympic events.

Tug-of-war featured in five Olympic games, with Great Britain winning the most medals. Argentina took gold in the roller skate hockey at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. And the 1900 Paris Olympic games featured competitors in live-pigeon shooting, swimming over an obstacle course, and long jump for horses.

But should eSports be in the Olympic Games?

Level up

“Absolutely,” some argue. Elite eSports players put in just as much dedication, time, and effort as any other top athlete. This should be celebrated at the highest level. What is more, video games rigorously test physical and mental qualities just like other sports — including composure, teamwork, and reactions. The Olympic games need eSports.

“The Olympics would be ruined,” reply others. The thrill of the games comes from athletes pushing their bodies to the limit. Any sport that does not need physical exercise is unworthy of the Olympics. Furthermore, it would send a message that sitting and playing video games is just as good as playing sport. This would severely damage the youth of today.

You Decide

  1. Should playing video games be considered a sport?
  2. What is the best sport and why?

Activities

  1. Try to define the world “sport” in ten words or less.
  2. Do some research on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and find out what events were included. Are there any events that you think should not have been included? Should any of the events be replaced by eSports? Are there any other modern sports that should become Olympic events?

Some People Say...

“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.”

Heywood Broun

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The 2024 Olympics will be held in Paris. In August Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, said that he will speak with the IOC about including eSports in the Paris games. The programme of events will be established following the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
What do we not know?
We do not know if the IOC will agree to including eSports in the Olympics. IOC president, Thomas Bach, has said that: “We are not yet 100% clear whether eSports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport.”

Word Watch

Comparable
In 2016 eSports player Eugene Park took the Wonderlic test which is used to assess candidates in the NFL draft. He scored 41/50 — higher than every quarterback in the draft.
Huge arenas
The World Championship final of the game League of Legends will take place in November at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. The stadium was used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and holds 80,000 people.
Multiplayer battle games
Known as MOBAs, which stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. These games usually involve two teams fighting one another, using fantasy characters with a range of strengths and special powers.
Millions
The 2017 World Championships for the game Dota 2 offered a total prize pot of $24m.
League of Legends
A MOBA style game in which teams of players do battle in a fantasy world.
Asian games
Over 9,000 athletes from forty-five nations took part in the 2014 South Korea Asian Games.
Expected
According to a 2017 eSports market report by Newzoo.

Subjects

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