Gamers at the Games? Olympic committee forum to focus on esports

Olympic Movement will meet the world of competitive video gaming

League of Legends Esports China Hangzhou
A League of Legends pro-league match in the Chinese city of Hangzhou
(Image credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

Esports have been described as the “future of sport” but could we one day see professional video gamers compete at the Olympics?

It may seem a long way off that happening but small steps have been taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after it announced it would host an esports forum in Lausanne, Switzerland on 21 July.

According to the IOC and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) the esports forum will aim to “explore synergies, build joint understanding and set a platform for future engagement between the esports and gaming industries and the Olympic Movement”.

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The forum follows the October 2017 Olympic Summit where the IOC and GAISF were asked to explore esports “in a dialogue with the gaming industry and players”. The BBC also reported in April that the Paris 2024 Olympic organisers were “deep in talks” about including esports as a demonstration sport at the summer games in six years’ time.

GAISF president Patrick Baumann said: “We understand that sport never stands still and the phenomenal growth of esports and gaming is part of its continuing evolution.

“The Esports Forum provides an important and extremely valuable opportunity for us to gain a deeper understanding of esports, their impact and likely future development, so that we can jointly consider the ways in which we may collaborate to the mutual benefit of all of sport in the years ahead.”

Kit McConnell, the IOC’s sports director, added: “We are pleased to be hosting our first Esports Forum, which is a great opportunity for both the Olympic Movement and representatives from the world of esports and gaming to begin a discussion, listen and learn from each other, and understand the potential opportunities for collaboration.

“The IOC and GAISF are closely following the rapid development of esports globally, and we look forward to a really engaging discussion.”

Rapid growth of esports

The growth of esports has been rapid in recent years and according to Newzoo’s 2018 Global Esports Market Report the worldwide esports economy will increase to $905.6m (£688.4m) this year. That’s a 38% rise year-on-year.

Newzoo also reports that the global esports audience will reach 380 million in 2018, made up of 165 million esports fans and 215 million occasional viewers.

“On its current trajectory, we estimate the esports industry will reach $1.4 billion (£1bn) by 2020,” Newzoo says.

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