Competitive video games will become a medal sport for the first time ever at the 2022 Asian Games, the Olympic Council of Asia announced. They will appear as a demonstration event at the 2018 edition of the next Asian Games, held in Indonesia, as part of the run-up to esports’ official inclusion as a medal sport in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
The 2014 Asian Games, via Republic of Korea/Flickr
As a preview of what is to come, esports will be contested at the upcoming Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. FIFA 2017 is the only game confirmed to appear at AIMAG, but the event will also include a multiplayer online battle arena game (such as League of Legends or Dota 2) and a real-time strategy game (such as StarCraft 2).
Like the Pan-American Games, the Asian Games is a multi-sport competition, touted as second only to the Olympics in terms of size. 10,000 athletes participated at the most recent Asian Games in 2014.
Along with the announcement of esports’ inclusion in the Asian Games, the OCA announced a partnership with Chinese sports internet company Alisports — a subsidiary of Alibaba, the Amazon/eBay of China — to sponsor the event. Last year, Alisports invested $US150 million ($198 million) in the International eSports Federation, a South Korean organisation that submitted a request for esports’ consideration from the International Olympic Committee. The inclusion of esports in the Asian Games serves as a preliminary testing ground for their possible inclusion in the Olympics, and a sign that Alisports wants to be a huge player in esports.
As for whether esports belong in the Olympic Games, or even in the Asian Games, let’s not forget that rifle shooting has been an Olympic sport for years, or that skateboarding and sport climbing were added to the 2020 Olympics.