Esports will feature in the Olympics...ish
April 2018. The internet speculation mill flew into overdrive at the announcement that the 2024 Paris Olympic organisers were considering the inclusion of esports to the games.
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) immediately reined in everyone’s excitement by insisting that: “violent computer games would never be part of the Olympics…it would be a "red line" for the International Olympic Committee that no computer game that encourages violence would be allowed”. It may be worth noting at this juncture that, in his day, Thomas Bach represented Germany to win multiple Olympic medals (including Gold) in Fencing. The sport where you have to repeatedly stab your opponent with a sword to win.
As upset as this understandably made a lot of people, the community were excited regardless. Even in a subdued form, esports being represented on such an immense and historic platform is a major win for the culture.
So, almost a year later, we finally have an update on the details of the event, and how esports will feature. Prepare to be underwhelmed.
While not featuring at all on the programme, Paris will be offering “virtual and connected” events running alongside official events. In essence, you can play along the events from home in real-time, pitting yourself against the athletes on the field.
It’s a cool idea, but it seems to be a way to avoid the issue. What will be best received are fully fledged E-competitive events, with established athletes at the highest level of ability meeting on a balanced field and providing a fantastic show. Like…everything else that happens in the Olympics?
Esports at present has a global audience of over 320 million. They daily watch their athletes compete, and are passionate about their performances and the dynamics of their teams. Letting them have a go at running 400m on their iPad alongside the TV isn’t really going to resolve the issue.
Some would argue that it’s progress, and that a form of digital inclusion is better than nothing, and may even be a practice run for how the events can handle unprecedented levels of technical interaction. With progress like this, it seems that getting esports onto the official programme will truly be a feat worthy of an Olympian.