Movers and SHAKERS
Do the Olympics Need Esports or Do Esports Need the Olympics?
Prior to the Olympic traditional games in Tokyo, they held The Olympics Virtual Series. This pre-game competition before the main events had participants pitted against each other in events that had similar looks to traditional Olympic events. This included sailing (Virtual Regatta Inshore), Cycling (Zwift), and intentionally excluded any games that involved killing opponents. This debuted the Esports Series and marked the first time video games have been part of this every four year summer event. Does this mean sports that fall under esports will be included in the Olympics in the future, does it mean they are now formally considered sports, will there also be winter esports?
These are questions that can be polarizing. After all, they defy us to define what “sport” is. It also causes many to wrestle with embracing the past or embracing change. People on all sides of the debate also need to understand the established guidelines to be invited into the Olympics?
Basic Olympic Criteria
The first criterion for any sport to be considered is they need to have an international federation that is accepted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Esports has been represented by an appropriate federation for more than 10 years. The International eSports Federation administers esports competitions allowing ranking and other data for Olympic evaluation. So esports is not disqualified on that measure.
Another necessary criterion is that a sport must have one of the following: Men (males) competing in 75 different countries across four continents and/or women practicing in 40 countries on three continents. This hurdle has been cleared for years in esports with men/women in 150 countries on six continents participating.
The last must-have to be an Olympic hopeful activity is it must be recognized as a sport. Identifying it as a sport can get tricky. It’s okay if players identify as athletes, and the games identify as sports, but do they meet the standard definition? A sport is defined as a physical activity that requires skills or physical prowess and is often of a competitive nature.
Skill and competitiveness are attributes that can not be denied in the esports arena. The physicality is where the debate begins.
Here are two conflicting “expert” opinions:
A study from the International Journal of Excercise Science shows that esports players do experience increased heart rates similar to people playing physical sports.
A study from ScienceDirect opposes the sport view, concluding that while players do exert themselves while playing games, it is not enough to qualify as a sport.
Ultimately, the IOC would be left to decide whether or not esports could legitimately share the stage with events like curling, live pigeon shooting, or older Olympic events such as hot air ballooning and duelling pistols.
It probably just comes down to making a call on it. The decision, as with most when the financial stakes are high, may rely on criteria not listed.
Who Needs the Other Most?
While debates about what is a legitimate sport, worthy of the Olympic brand sanction, rage. Outside of amateur sports, the games have experienced major financial success. According to a report from Reuters, the esports industry is expected to exceed one billion dollars in revenue in 2021. This would be a 14% increase from last year.
The viewership of esports alone may cause the IOC to heavily consider adding it to the roster of sports. During the 2016 Olympics, NBC had about 27 million viewers watching the games. That same year the 2016 League of Legends World Championships had around 43 million viewers. That was before they became popular.
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