Going for Gold: Esports at the Olympics

The international Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) recently convened in Lausenne, Switzerland, inviting over 150 esports representatives to discuss what could be the most contentious decision made in recent Olympics history: Will esports be at the 2024 Olympics?

While an article on the official Olympics website states that “the consideration of whether esports could be included on the Olympic programme was not an immediate goal”, the forums intention was to explore “areas of commonality and potential collaboration”. Make no mistake, this is a huge step forwards for esports, which up until recently, was being ridiculed on talk shows, newscasts and official sports events.

The natural question for any avid esports fan is why not commit to introducing esports as an official sport or event at the 2024 Olympics now? Why the delay? As far as we can tell, there are a number of risks both the IOC and esports organisations alike will have to handle before taking this leap of faith. The risks can broadly be categorised into three categories: Reputational, Financial and Security.

The reputational component is the most obvious. There is still a large number of people in the world who do not view esports as “real sports”, and would be discontent with this new trend displayed at the world’s largest multi-sport attraction. However, the IOC is no stranger to adding and removing sports from the official games, most recently adding skateboarding, karate, surfing, sports climbing, and baseball/softball to the 2020 Japan Olympic Games.

Financially, esports would increase the overall cost of the event, and require further budget commitment to IT infrastructure, gaming venues and player practice facilities. Additionally, esports might not draw enough viewership to warrant being included, however unlikely. With esports continuous viewership growth, we doubt this risk will be front-of-mind during future discussions.

Finally, with an uptick in the number of internet connected devices, the Olympics will have an increased cyber security threat. Hackers have already proven that the Olympics are not safe from cyber attacks, managing to successfully penetrate the 2018 Winter Olympics held in PyeongChang. Any international sporting event including esports would be wise to isolate the competitive esports network from that of the corporate management. Learn from the mistakes of others, even at the Olympic Level.

Re:Cover will be paying close attention to the discussions held regarding this recent development. With the Asia Games to be held in 2022 already committing to include esports as a medal event, hopefully the Olympics will follow suit sooner rather than later.

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