Esports at the Olympics? Not So Fast, Says IOC Chief

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Esports competitions pack stadiums, but that might not be good enough for the Olympics.
Esports competitions pack stadiums, but that might not be good enough for the Olympics. Credit: Courtesy ESL/Helena Kristiansson

After throwing cold water on speculation that competitive video-game playing could become an Olympic sport, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is drawing a sharp rebuke from esports enthusiasts.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Bach suggested esports does not meet the standards of the Olympics. "We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence and peace among people. This doesn't match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line," he said.

Still, he did not entirely rule out inclusion of competitive video-game playing, telling the publication that esports that mirror traditional sports, like soccer or basketball, could be considered. But that rubbed esports supporters the wrong way. Many are venting on social media. Tobias Sherman, who until recently was the global head of esports at talent agency powerhouse WME-IMG, accused Bach of hypocrisy, pointing to one Olympic sport, boxing, that is pretty violent itself.

He wasn't finished.

Meanwhile, Hector Rodriguez, CEO of popular esports franchise OpTic Gaming, had a little fun at Boch's expense.

The IOC has put a new emphasis on drawing younger viewers, a factor that drove the decision to add sports such as skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing to the official lineup for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Interest by young fans has propelled esports, which keeps drawing more sponsors and fresh investments from heavy hitters in the traditional sports world, such as New England Patriots CEO Robert Kraft.

Bach did not rule out adding esports in time for the 2024 games in Paris, telling the South China Morning Post that "these discussions are going on." But he added that while esports is "a successful industry" it is "not yet really established in an organizational way."

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