Video Games Get One Step Closer To Being In The Olympics

Video Games Get One Step Closer To Being In The Olympics
Screenshot: Capcom

Although the Olympics are known more for physical competitive pursuits like gymnastics and swimming, the organisation has been inching closer and closer to the world of esports over the last few years. Its latest toe dip into the water comes in the form of a $700,000 gaming tournament hosted with Intel, held during the lead-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

As originally reported by The Esports Observer, the Intel World Open will feature competition in Street Fighter V and Rocket League, with a $360,000 prize pool for each game. Intel’s director of business development Mark Subotnick explained that these two titles were chosen due to the ease with which even casual spectators can keep up with the on-screen action. The legacy of the Street Fighter franchise, especially in Japan, was also a key factor in its inclusion, according to Subotnick.

Open online qualifiers will be held to fill out the national teams of participating countries, with a final qualifying event planned for June in Katowice, Poland to decide who will move on to the official competition in Japan. The Intel World Open itself will lead directly into the 2020 Summer Olympics, taking place at Tokyo’s Zepp DiverCity music hall in the days right before the event’s July 25 start date.

The road that competitive gaming has taken through the world of global sports competitions has been a rocky one. Following the announcement that esports would be featured in the 2022 Asian Games, the 2018 edition held in Indonesia awarded non-official medals to competitors in six different video games, including League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Starcraft II.

While Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, briefly flirted with the idea of bringing video games into the fold at the 2024 Summer Olympics, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach was less than supportive.

“We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people,” Bach told the South China Morning Post in 2017. “This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.”

Less than a year later, however, the International Olympic Committee would partner with Intel for IEM Pyeongchang 2018, a Starcraft II-focused event that was held in South Korea one week before the 2018 Winter Olympics. Shortly afterwards, Timo Lumme, managing director of television and marketing services for the International Olympic Committee, said that the organisation would “explore esports’ relationship with the Olympic Movement further” and referred to the potential of including esports in the Olympic games as an “exciting future.”

The 2018 Olympic Summit even encouraged “accelerated cooperation” with sports video games.

Having esports in the Olympics is considered by many in the esports industry to be the next step in terms of making competitive gaming a legitimate sport, despite the millions of dollars and sold-out arenas that it has already managed to accrue. Racing towards this vision of mainstream acceptance has the benefit of getting more eyes on competitive games, but it has its downsides.

Fighting games especially have made poor transitions to larger markets due to putting their futures in the hands of organisations that don’t seem to understand the community’s grassroots history, and even endemic developers don’t always get it right. That said, the esports bubble often centres on quick and monumental growth, even in the face of a potential burst, and attention will most definitely be on Japan next year with an eye to where the Olympic relationship goes from there.


  • “We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people,” Bach told the South China Morning Post in 2017. “This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.”

    This is such a misinformed opinion. A cop out to be honest. Doesn’t the Olympics have shooting, archery and martial arts? One could draw the same crazy conclusion with those as well.

    • Shooting and archery are done with targets and the combat sports are restricted to their point rule forms.

      I don’t think anyone is going to genuinely make the argument that those sports are violent but it’s also pretty ridiculous to paint all games as being about violence, killing and explosions.
      Sure, Mortal Kombat might be out of the running but there’s tons of alternatives.

      • Oh I get that. And they both require a large amount of skill. I am just using them as a reference but one that is so far from context but is still “technically” true. Like that person has done with gaming.

  • Really don’t want to see e-sports at the Olympics, 20/20 would be more interesting too see before that.

    Given all the past “events” that have been in the Olympics and subsequently dropped it’s really hard to see e-sports as a option.

    Also what makes e-sports uniquely summer Olympics, it’s not really “seasonal”.

  • I honestly don’t see it happening any time soon.
    The biggest barrier to Esports as a legitimate sport is the companies themselves, they atemt willing to relinquish enough control.

  • If they knocked back the efforts to get darts and snooker/billiards included in the Olympics, I don’t really see why video games should get in. Nor do I really understand why anybody would want to try to get them in. Just have a separate world cup or whatever you want to call it for gaming.

  • I don’t think any current esport should be considered for the Olympics or anything like it. My main reason is that all current esports are owned and controlled by companies. When you compare them to Olympic sports it seems ridiculous, nobody owns soccer, swimming, or boxing. If a game is included in an event it immediately doubles as an advertisement for the game which will lead to the owning company generating money.

    I think if a game was to be included as an esport it should be completely free to play, open source and have no copyrighting on it at all.
    It should be free to play so anyone can start if they have the hardware (similar to rowing, you need a boat).
    It should be open source or at least heavily customisable so the players and organisers can change around rules at will. This allows for varied ways of play and gives the players the power to choose what is balanced and best for the game (like soccer, you can choose the rules for your friends, for a primary school league, and for professional league).
    Lastly I don’t think the sport/game should be owned by any singular group or person. Of course it would still have creators but they would have the same control over the game once it was released. Anyone should be able to use the game any way they want without needing approval by the owner.

    If a game was like this I think it would be okay to be considered a sport, however it doesn’t seem like this will ever happen unless a game transitions out of its current state.

  • why do people keep pushing for this absurd ‘Olympic’ gaming fallacy?

    playing video games competitivley isnt the same as being an professional olympic level athelete and nothing will make it truthful no matter how much the marketers are rubbing their hand together at the potentional money to be made.

    Make a international gaming competition instead and stop trying to fold it into the actual Olympics geez, i mean really?

  • So a legitimate physical and highly technical sport like BJJ can’t find acceptance as an Olympic event, but eSports can? There’s something seriously wrong with this picture…

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