Competitive gaming aka esports is likely to be added to the Olympic Games programme in 2024.
By Iain Fenton. Journalist for http://www.comparelotto.com/
Yes, by the year 2024, video gamers could be competing for Olympic gold medals. As wacky as this sounds, esports have become one of the most popular ‘sports’ in the world.
Esports has a global audience of over 300 million people and in 2016, generated £400M in revenue. Esports has not even reached its peak yet; both audience numbers and revenue figures are expected to balloon within the next several years.
Some of the most popular esports franchises/games include; Dota 2, League of Legends and Counter Strike.
Ti7 – Dota 2s annual show piece tournament is currently in its closing stages where teams Newbee and LGD ForeverYoung are fighting it out for the enormous $10M first place prize. The tournament has been broadcast live throughout, via online streaming platform Twitch – the Amazon owned primary broadcaster for esports.
The decision to add esports to the Olympic programme is thought to be due to the belief that a contest of digital prowess should be considered a legitimate sport, especially if the Olympics wants to appeal to a new generation of fans.
Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee suggested, in an interview to the Associated Press that the Olympics were looking into ways they could attract a younger audience.
“The youth, yes they are interested in esport and this kind of thing,” said Estanguet. “Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges.
“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. I don’t want to say ‘no’ from the beginning.”
In recent years, the Olympics has regularly added new sports to their programme – most recently; Golf and Rugby 7s in 2014.
Paris is set to host the 2024 Olympics without the usual dramatic vote. Due to spiraling costs of hosting the Olympic Games, many cities, including Rome, Hamburg and Budapest, withdrew their bids to host the event in 2024.
Gone are the days where host countries could benefit financially from hosting the Olympic Games. The costs of hosting the summer or winter Olympics goes well into the billions.
Due to the ever increasing popularity of esports, it certainly seems a shrewd decision by the Olympic Committee to add esports to the lineup. Without doubt the Olympics will add a significant number of young audience viewers to their coverage numbers by incorporating esports to their programme.
There are also numerous directions in which the Olympics can take esports. They have any number of franchises/games to choose from whilst they could even set about working with a games development company in order to create their own game specifically to be played and competed over during the Olympics.
Paris has a history of hosting esports tournaments too. Earlier this year, the regional final of FIFA 17s ‘Ultimate Team Championship Series’ was held in Paris. Although, the city will probably have to build the infrastructure to host an Olympic esports event. And this likely would not fit into their ‘Olympics on a budget’ mind frame.
Estanguet has suggested that the Paris games will be delivered on a budget with the view that they will use infrastructure which has already built, for the Games.
“We knew we had to challenge this reputation that the budget of the games can explode,” says Estanguet. “That’s why we built the project based on 95 per cent of existing venues to make sure we will be confident to be able to deliver our promises.”
The lowest amount that an Olympic Games has cost within the past 15 years was in Lillehammer (1994) and Nagano (1998) at the Winter Olympics Games. The costs of both of those Games were $2.23bn. Whilst the cost of the Summer Olympic games has ranged from $2.94bn in Athens (2004) all the way to a massive $14.96bn in London (2012).
Every single Olympic games since 1992 has overrun in estimated cost. The latest winter Olympics in Sochi (2014) overran by 289%. Clearly, Paris (2024) wants to address this issue. Judging by Estanguet’s rhetoric, it seems like a host city is finally learning that spending large amounts of public money on the Olympics is no longer a smart decision.
The jury is still out on whether or not esports should be considered as sports but esports are seen by many of its fans to be the epitome of modern day sport. The past several years have seen esports become a wildly popular entertainment sport. Some of the largest companies and banks in the world have invested heavily in esports – it has been seen as an opportunity too good to miss out on.
In a similar way to every mainstream sport, it is possible for viewers to place bets on various esports tournaments, comeptitions and matches. It is thought that the esports betting market is far bigger than the sports media rights, consumer revenues and advertising of esports put together – indeed, it is likely that the esports betting market is bigger than the esports economy itself. Of course, the ability to bet on something does tend to make it more popular.
Esports have already been confirmed as a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games. Esports in Eastern Asia are already almost certainly the most popular sport in the region and it seems this enthusiasm is traveling to the western world.
Television broadcasters such as the BBC are broadcasting esports events live and are looking at increasing the number of esports to be shown live on their channels. BBC is due to broadcast live coverage of the Rocket League Gfinity Elite series in a months’ time.
In conclusion, regardless of which cities host future Olympic events, it is highly likely that the ICC will introduce esports as an Olympic event. Sports such as tennis, football and golf were thought to have been added due to their popularity and the same will happen with esports.