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Could Esports Become Part Of Olympics By 2024?

Could Esports Become Part Of Olympics By 2024?
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By  Jen Booton February 16, 2018 SportTechie

NEW YORK – Those who work in esports believe the gaming competitions could be added to the Olympics as soon as 2024, potentially exciting a new generation of viewers similar to the way snowboarding ignited a younger audience when it was added in 1998.

A number of challenges, however, will need to be addressed before the slow-to-change International Olympic Committee (IOC) will feel comfortable giving these new-age digital sports the greenlight.

This year as a lead-up to the Winter Games, and in an attempt to showcase “the excitement and influence of esports,” Intel hosted the Intel Extreme Masters tournament in PyeongChang through a partnership with the IOC.

Through the first week of February and ending just two days before the opening ceremonies, 18 players representing regions from around the world competed in Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft II in what Intel said was “just the beginning” of esports’ influence on the Games.

The intrigue surrounding the tournament appears to have energized the esports community, which now seems surer than ever that esports will be added as an Olympic event within the decade.

“I think there’s going to be a near future where it’s going to be in the Olympics,” Andrew Paradise, Founder and CEO at Skillz, said on a panel at SportTechie’s State Of The Industry event in Brooklyn earlier this week. “A lot of people are saying 2024 is the guess.”

Paradise compared the global appeal of esports among younger demographics to the dawn of snowboarding in the Olympics, which was a hugely popular X Games event for nearly a decade before it was added as an Olympic sport.

The X Games added esports to its agenda a few years ago.

“Three or four months ago I was watching one of these panels and the question about the Olympics came up. The statement I thought bold at the time but I think I understand better now is: ‘The Olympics won’t legitimize esports, esports will legitimize the Olympics,’” said Jamie Leece, VP of Games and VR at MLBAM. “While there’s no legitimization going on — esports is legitimate on its own and the Olympics is obviously a phenomenal platform and event every two years — if they want to reach that audience, they’re going to have to get on a bit of a different path to understanding how to integrate it.”

Grant Paranjape, Director of Esports Business and Team Operations at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, said he thinks the Olympics need esports more than esports need the Olympics.

“We get the question a lot, is esports a sport? And the answer is it doesn’t really matter,” said Paranjape. “We have incredible viewership, it’s highly entertaining, it’s a great form for people of all ages to watch. We don’t need to be legitimized.”

On a November 2017 Leaders In Sport podcast, IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell said esports wasn’t on the committee’s radar just yet but that it planned to discuss esports in more detail after PyeongChang.

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At the Olympic Summit in late October, Olympics stakeholders recognized that esports “could be considered as a sporting activity” because of the way its athletes intensely train. But they also determined that esports must not infringe upon traditional Olympic values.

One of the biggest holdbacks, according to Paranjape, is the fact that some esports games are violent. Another problem, according to Leece, is that the Olympics would need to rely on a video game developer, which might infringe on the IOC’s rule that no one should profit from the Games. The IOC would have to develop some type of process to determine which esports games would be played.

“They could have it every two years if they wanted to — something in the summer, something in the winter — but they can’t hold to the old guard,” said Leece. “If they want an audience, they’re going to have to evolve a little bit to that.”

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