eSports on the Olympic Podium?

The debate of what constitutes a sport probably goes back to the first Olympic Games when the founders got into arguments over whether you could just throw the javelin for distance – or whether you had to actually spear something with it. Fast-forward to today and you’ll hear the same arguments.

The latest fuel for the fire is the announcement that eSports will be a full medal sport in the 2022 iteration of the Asian Games.

According to an article in Inside The Games, the announcement was made in part by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). The OCA says the inclusion of eSports is a reflection of the “rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth.”

To whet spectators’ appetites, eSports will be presented as a demonstration sport at next year’s Asian Games in Indonesian cities Jakarta and Palembang. And already, there is a full complement of regional events to find who should actually compete there.

Think about that for a minute. Regional qualifiers in eSports so that national teams can be formed.

There’s no question that multi-sport games have long sought a younger viewership, and few sports skew as young as computer gaming. The New York Times recently covered the uptick in colleges hosting eSports as part of their programs, and some colleges are actually offering scholarship money to gamers.

Take all the time you need to think about that one too.

An article in CNet notes that the market for esports is growing, and participation is expected to reach 191 million people around the world by year’s end, according to research firm Newzoo. As of last April, the industry was worth more than $450 million, an amount that is expected to grow to $1 billion by 2019.

Gaming schools have cropped up to groom the next generation of pros. Esports will also be a demonstration event at the OCA’s Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan in September, according to the OCA. In addition, California is now home to the one and only preseason training eSports facility anywhere. (For now; others are sure to follow).

So can we count on seeing eSports trying to become an Olympic sport any time soon? Depends on who’s doing the talking. As recently as last year, ESPN stated it was a very real possibility, even going so far as to say that the IOC could be recognizing eSports by 2020.

According to the article, the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF), a South Korean organization, made inquiries to the IOC, and received a response outlining the process and next steps to allow eSports to be recognized as an Olympic sport. Note: That’s not a guarantee; it’s simply a response with an explanation of the process. In addition, the International eGames Committee successfully presented a two-day eSports showcase in Rio in August of 2016, following the conclusion of the Paralympic Games.

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