IOC rows back on esports inclusion

10 Dec 2018

By: Sport Industry Group

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has released a statement describing discussion about the inclusion of esports as a medal event on the Olympic programme as "premature." 

It cites "uncertainties" in the development of the sector, noting specifically that "the [esports] industry is fragmented in nature, with tough competition between commercial operators."

The statement continues: "The [esports] industry is commercially driven, while on the other hand the sports movement is values-based.

"The [IOC summit] advises major sports events organisers within the Olympic Movement to respect this principle for their own competitions."

The communique, released following a summit of Olympic Movement stakeholders in Lausanne, indicates a change of position on the subject by Olympic leaders.

Earlier this year, the IOC invited esports stakeholders to a two-day summit at the organisation's headquarters in Switzerland, following which it appeared to enthusiastically embrace the possibility of esports' inclusion in future Olympic Games.

Among the main cheerleaders of the project was Patrick Baumann, IOC member and former Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) president, who passed away suddenly in October.

Esports events also featured on the medal programme of the 2018 Asian Games, achieving unexpectedly high interest and ratings which seemed to add momentum behind the drive for Olympic inclusion.

While observing that "the use of the term sport with regard to esports/egames needs further dialogue and study," the IOC statement drew a distinction between "simulation games" and other forms of gaming.

Announcing the creation of a dedicated liaison group, the statement called for "accelerated cooperation with regard to these kinds of [simulation] esports," inviting International Federations, to "explore the potential benefits and applications of the electronic and virtual versions of their sports, while ensuring they gain or retain appropriate control over the electronic/virtual versions of their sports; and restricting their engagement to activation in the e-versions and virtual forms of their traditional sports."

Those in attendance at the 7th Olympic Summit included IOC president Thomas Bach, vice-presidents, Juan Antonio Samaranch, Uğur Erdener, Anita L. Defrantz and Zaiqing Yu among other notable IOC members.