Is there a future for esports in the Olympics?

It’s a question some have begun to ask as competitive gaming continues to rise in popularity and the International Olympic Committee continues to search for ways to get younger audiences interested in the Olympic Games.

Gaming and the Olympics seem like disparate pursuits, but a time when video games take their place alongside traditional sports during an Olympiad may be coming in the future. The IOC has at least been listening.

On Saturday, IOC President Thomas Bach said esports had been among the items on the agenda during the organization’s executive meetings last week in Tokyo.

“There is agreement we can’t, and we should not, ignore the growth of the egames industry and the interactivity of it for the young generation. That we should engage with this community,” Bach said.

“On the other hand, on how to engage, there are many uncertainties. Because on the one hand, you have an industry with purely commercial interests, on the other hand, you have a values-based organization like the IOC.”

Bach said while the IOC had learned a great deal during an esports forum (held jointly by the IOC and the Global Association of International Sports Federations) in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July and during presentations in Tokyo, there are still a number of hurdles to clear.

One of the issues he cited were the differing goals of the companies involved in esports, such as developers, publishers etc. and competition between them. With many different companies and interests dotting the landscape, Bach said it’s hard to identify someone to approach in regard to moving forward.

Bach, however, mentioned there were fewer problems about sports simulation games.

As for an esports presence on the program for Paris 2024, Bach said the rapid changes in technology would make that hard. Experts, he said, have told the IOC that the esports industry could look completely different in five years.

“This means that they all think that e-games as we know them now, will have disappeared in five, maybe even before five years,” Bach said. “Because then VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) will play a much more important role and will more or less have taken over technology-wise. This explains the fact that there is the clear tendency that we say it’s premature to speak about the inclusion of such games into the Olympic program.

“If you were to include one of these games we know now for ’24, the young generation in ’24 may say, ‘this has been played by my grandfather. What is this.’ ”

In essence, the outlook on seeing “Overwatch” or “League of Legends” and the like in the Olympics is still foggy at best in terms of the near future.

“We need more time, we need more dialogue, we need more contact and then to see how we can get these two worlds together,” Bach said.

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