eSports could be added as an Olympic sport by 2024

The co-president of the Paris bid committee plans to discuss the proposal with IOC and eSports groups

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From 2024, it may be possible to win an Olympic medal for being a champion eSports player.

The Guardian is reporting that Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris bid committee, says he plans to discuss the proposal with the International Olympic Committee and eSports organisations about adding competitive video gaming to the events when the Olympics take place in France.

“I don’t want to say ‘no’ from the beginning,” Estanguet said. “I think it’s interesting to interact with the IOC, with them, the eSports family, to better understand what the process is and why it is such a success.”

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“We have to look at it because we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not about Olympics. The youth...are interested in eSports. Let’s try [to] find some bridges.'”

If the plans are approved, they will follow the announcement from the Olympic Council of Asia in April that saw eSports being listed as a medal sport for the 2022 Asian Games in China. 

 Since the inaugural games, in 1896, there have been five “traditional” sports that have featured in every summer event (athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics and swimming). In 2012, this had risen to 26. Last year there were 28, and by 2020 the games could cover a staggering 33 sports.

The five most recent additions were announced at the 129th IOC session in Rio de Janeiro last August and the changes marked the “most comprehensive evolution of the Olympic programme in modern history”.

Following a vote, the IOC added baseball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing. They were added to the Tokyo games due to the "flexibility of the Tokyo programme" but are not expected to remain as permanent fixtures.

These new sports will see 474 more athletes competing against 18 new events.

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Sports are typically added to the Olympics roster following a petition, and subsequent vote, being made to the IOC. However, if a sport is particularly popular in the host country, that country can bid for the sport to be added, which is what happened in the case of Tokyo. At the time of the announcement, IOC president Thomas Bach said the games needed to “take sport to the youth”.

“We cannot expect any more that they will come to us,” he continued. “We have to go to them.”

“We cannot expect any more that they will come to us. We have to go to them.”

The exact details of which eSports titles will be contested in the Paris games are yet to be announced (if they’ve even been decided upon) but in Asia, the games include FIFA 2017, MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) and RTA (real-time attack) games. Any official announcement about the 2024 games will likely be made in 2019 when the Olympic programme will begin. Future events are unlikely to be unveiled until after Tokyo, however.

Paris is set to be awarded the 2024 Olympics next month after rival Los Angeles agreed to take the 2028 games.

Last year, eSports is said to have reached a global audience of 320 million people with Newzoo research showing that the events generated $493 million (£379m) in revenue.

League of Legends is one of the most popular and well-known eSports alongside Dota 2, StarCraft II, Counter-Strike and StarCraft: Brood War. Overwatch League is set to boost popularity and numbers further.

"[Based] on the number of participants or by minutes played, video games are already a bigger industry than all offline sports," Andrew Paradise from Skillz told Engadget. "Video games are much younger in their evolutionary history than offline sports and are growing at a much faster rate."

eSports has been particularly popular in Asia for years but the UK, US and Europe are all seeing rising numbers. Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch, the social video game site, thrust such events into the mainstream and, as of July, the streaming site has more than ten million daily active users.

This year there have been events in Seoul, New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Next week, the FIFA Interactive World Cup final is taking place at London’s O2. The world’s best 32 FIFA 17 players will compete in the tournament to find the official FIFA World Champion, with the winner receiving prize money of £153,835 ($200,000). By comparison, the International 2017, a Dota 2 tournament in Seattle, is offering a prize pool of almost $24 million (£18.4m).

Image: FIFA

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