Discourse about the inclusion of esports in international sports is always interesting to follow. His appearance at the 2018 Asian Games was already a “big win”, even though it was only an experiment. But to go to the next stage, which includes esports as an official sport, requires a tougher struggle.
The IOC Committee (International Olympic Committee) has long expressed its pessimism towards the participation of esports in the Olympics. One reason is that various video games or “egames” contain elements of violence and discrimination, contrary to values upheld at the Olympics. Then recently, at a conference in the city of Lausanne, France, the IOC stated their agreement not to display esports as an official branch or medal winner at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The IOC recognizes that esports is currently a large industry, and they also do not deny that competitive video games deserve to be called “sports”. In practice, esports does require physical fitness and dexterity that can be compared to traditional sports. However, there are still many uncertainties that make the IOC think that it is too early to include esports at the Olympics.
In addition, the IOC also recognizes that the rapid growth of technology, especially augmented reality and virtual reality, will also make the form of the esports industry continue to change. They did not rule out that esports could enter the Olympics someday. But at least, for the 2024 Paris Olympics, it was judged to be not yet time.
In addition to the aforementioned elements of violence, the IOC also feels that the development of the esports industry is strongly driven by commercial motives. This is different from conventional sports movements, where development is driven by motivation to achieve certain values.
We who follow the world of professional sports certainly feel this statement is a bit strange, because after all the most popular sports branches in the world can not be separated from the large money turnover as well. In soccer, for example, the transfer of players from one club to another can involve transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars. This is just a player transfer, not yet about sponsorship, broadcast rights, merchandise, and so on. It is precisely because of this commercialization that a sport can develop, spread, and produce great talents that make the sport a livelihood.
Speaking of violence too, the Olympics itself currently contains several sports that contain violence. For example boxing, fencing, or wrestling. If the issue at hand is the violent visual display (such as blood, gore, etc.), then the solution is to simply replace the game with another title that is more worth watching. For example, replace PUBG with Fortnite, or replace CS: GO with Splatoon.
IOC’s decision to reject esports (at least for now) is certainly quite disappointing. But the IOC promised to continue to monitor the development of the esports industry, as well as holding discussions with stakeholders in the esports industry to find a middle ground. This is a big challenge, both for the pros and cons. 2024 is still long. The IOC still has plenty of time to change their decisions.