“eSports” as Olympic Medal Sport at Paris 2024?

August 16, 2017 by  

Will eSports be an Olympic medal sport at Paris 2024
Video gaming (now commonly known, in competitive circles, as “eSports”) was added as a medal sport to the X Games in 2014. This action was celebrated as a move toward the inevitable future by some, and an outright disgrace by former X Games medalists, and diehard X Games fans, alike.

As the Olympic Games works to remake itself into a creature of the modern-era, the leadership of the Paris 2024 bid committee is looking lovingly toward the joy of joysticking for their Games.

Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, recently told The Associated Press that his group will hold discussions with eSports shot-callers and the IOC regarding the possibility of eSports joining the 2024 program as a medal event.

Estanguet said, in the interview with AP:

We have to look at it, because we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not (the) Olympics.’ The youth, yes they are interested in eSports and this kind of thing. Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges.

I don’t want to say ‘no’ from the beginning. 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.

There is some time to look at it, to interact, to engage. We will spend some time after Lima (the IOC meeting in September, officially declaring Paris as the 2024 host city) to engage with new people and stakeholders. The IOC will have the last say, if they want eSports on the program. Let’s discuss among ourselves.

His reference to “there is some time” is a nod to the fact that the Paris 2024 program will be developed in 2019, with a final decision sometime after the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Around the office, our initial take on adding eSports to the Olympics is to bristle and gag. eSports are not athletic in nature, and it seems almost an insult to honest-to-goodness Olympians who train, day-in-and-day-out, sacrificing-much to develop their bodies to the absolute pinnacle of human capability.

But we have to check ourselves a bit, because there are plenty of voices in traditional Olympic circles who scoffed, as recently as last year, at the prospect of BMX Racing being an Olympic medal event.

That said, they are on shaky ground in turning-up their noses at us, because BMX Racing, as with traditional Olympic sports pits athlete against athlete to determine the best of the best.

Chapter 1, Article 6 of the Olympic Charter states: “The Olympic Games are competitions between *athletes* in individual or team events and not between countries.”

Now, are eSports competitors “athletes?” We’d say no.

BUT, if we look at Article 2 of Chapter 1, it states: “The mission of the IOC is to promote Olympism throughout the world and to lead the Olympic Movement. This includes upholding ethics in *sports,* encouraging participation in *sports,* ensuring the Olympic Games take place on a regular period, protecting the Olympic Movement, and encouraging and supporting the development of *sport.*”

The word “SPORT” is the open door for something like eSports, drone racing and other new-era competition formats (and you can bet a shiny-new-dime that drone racing is coming soon to the medal stand).

So, really, all IOC needs to do is change references to “athletes” to “competitors,” and these new disciplines can be legitimately brought under the Olympic tent. These events fit the description of “sport,” in the new-era definition, but the participants are not, in any way, “athletes.”

Would the founders of the ancient Olympic Games approve? Probably not. But maybe they would, as they created the Games as “the most important expression of unity.” That holds true for runners, shot-putters, BMXers, surfers and eGamers alike.

On purist grounds, we don’t especially like it, but maybe in seven years we’ll feel differently. Stick with News between now and 2024 for the latest on this story.

—Mike Carruth

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Will eSports be an Olympic medal sport at Paris 2024