Could eSports become the next Olympic Sport?
As eSports races towards becoming a billion-dollar annual industry, celebrities, and business titans race to stake their claim in the market, and corporate partners pour budgets into the gaming industry.
This begs the question, should eSports become an Olympic sport?
The Olympics date back to 800BC as a celebration to the Greek God Zeus. Participants competed in a myriad of games in Olympia Greece. In 1896, the first modern Olympics was held in Athens, Greece and featured competitors from different countries for the first time.
Over the years, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing body of the Olympics, has added and removed sports based on factors such as political, economic, and technological changes in society. These changes shifted the Olympics from just an amateur athletic event to a “celebration of athletics and countries.”
The Definition of a sport
Though this is no attempt at dismissing the preparation and hard work that athletes of obscure sports put in, the Olympics is made up of all sorts of games that you might initially consider to be a “sport”. Walking is an Olympic sport. Yes, Racewalking. Don’t walk too fast though, if one foot isn’t on the ground at all times, you’ll risk disqualification. Skateboarding is a new addition to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Are you good at shooting air pistols or air rifles? There’s an Olympic Medal up for grabs for you too. Are you a Ping-Pong master? Perhaps you have what it takes to represent your country. The “sport” that still has me scratching my head is Dressage. Dressage, which focuses on a horse’s ability to be obedient to its rider as it essentially dances in rhythm to a beat, offers the same gold medal that one might win for being the fastest sprinter in the entire world.
The IOC is making headway in adding more audience favorites. For the first time in 2020, 3 vs. 3 basketball will be added to the Olympics in addition to the typical 5 vs. 5 basketball. 3 vs. 3 is popular worldwide and has gained popularity in America due to hip-hop legend Ice Cube’s professional “Big3” league, featuring former NBA stars.
With the growing popularity of eSports, which trumps many sports regarding worldwide popularity and viewership, requires coordination and skill much like other Olympic athletes, and has a healthy amateur and professional division, could eSports be headed toward Olympic inclusion?
Not so fast, says IOC President Thomas Bach. When asked recently about eSports becoming an Olympic sport, he said, “many games feature too much violence and killing to be included.” He believes violent games go against the Olympic values. But what about boxing, martial arts, and sword fighting? What about non-violent games? Could they not be seen as extensions of sports just like the 3 vs. 3 basketball addition?
There are still some hurdles facing eSports such as the lack of an international governing body, a prerequisite for Olympic inclusion. But with the rising popularity and appeal to millennials that eSports provide, how much longer can the Olympics shun the fastest growing sport?
Who knows when eSports will become an Olympic sport, but in the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to pick up a game controller and alert your friends you’re working out for future Olympic games.
See you on the podium.