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Sports execs oppose esports in Olympics, survey shows

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A global survey of sports industry executives shows 57 percent oppose Olympic status for video gaming.

Audit firm PwC says more than 400 sports industry professionals from 42 countries answered an online questionnaire for its annual survey. The findings were discussed Tuesday at the Olympic Museum, where the IOC hosted an esports conference in July on possible Olympic status for the booming games market.

The PwC survey asked “Is esports an Olympic sport?“: 28 percent said, “no, because esports does not qualify as ‘sport,’” and 29 percent said esports should grow independently of the Olympics.

A further 26.7 percent said esports must first unify under a single governing body, and 10.4 percent said esports should join “as soon as possible.” Almost 6 percent said they did not know or abstained.

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Esports has no Olympic future with violence, Thomas Bach says

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach isn’t certain if, or when, esports might be incorporated into the Olympic Games.

But he was clear in an interview with The Associated Press at the Asian Games on Saturday about the need to meet some conditions before being considered.

“We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination,” he told the AP. “So-called killer games. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted.”

Esports is being held for the first time at the Asian Games as a demonstration sport, and could be a full-medal event in four years in Hangzhou, China.

Could the Olympics be next?

The IOC has been mulling over many of these questions since holding an esports forum in July at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Bach still needs convincing. He won an Olympic gold medal in fencing, which uses swords, and tried to draw a distinction.

“Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people,” he said. “But sport is the civilized expression about this. If you have egames where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values.”

Asian Games organizers several days ago expressed sympathy for victims of the deadly shooting at a video games tournament in a Florida shopping mall.

They faulted U.S. gun laws, not esports.

“But I think this is a bigger issue of gun control and access to guns,” said Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, following the shooting.

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Esports into Asian Games; Olympics next?

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Esports is debuting as an exhibition sport at the Asian Games and is targeted for full inclusion in four years at the games in Hangzhou, China.

Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, said the long-term aim is getting esports into the Olympics.

This seems a possibility, given that the International Olympic Committee held a forum on esports just last month at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“Our agenda is to push for the Olympic agenda,” Fok said at the opening of esports at the Asian Games. “This is our work. And this is our passion, this is what drives us. When? I don’t know. When, I do not want to predict.”

Fok described the inclusion of esports as an exhibition in the Asian Games as “a very good first step” and said the goal is to “take down obstacles, step by step.”

Fok has strong Olympic connections. His father, Timothy, was an IOC member from Hong Kong from 2001 until 2016 and he remains an honorary member.

Gamers don’t argue they are athletes, but say they share the same drive to compete. But this could also be said about bridge players — a game also being contested at the Asian Games — or chess, or competitive dancing.

But these pastimes can’t generate much income — not like esports.

“I think esports shares the same spirit with traditional sports,” said Wang Tianlong of China, speaking through a translator, after taking gold in Arena of Valor. “No matter if we are esports players or athletes, we all fight to win for our country.”

Khien Vuong Trung, a bronze medalist from Vietnam in Arena of Valor, said he met initial skepticism.

“At the beginning, my parents didn’t want me to be a professional esports athlete,” he said. “But it is growing in my country. And my parents also saw my love for it. So they began to be supportive.”

In addition to Arena of Valor, five other games are being played: Clash Royale, League of Legends, StarCraft II, Hearthstone, and PES 2018.

Eighteen countries are competing led by South Korea, where the gaming craze took off first. Also included are: Indonesia, Laos, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Thailand, India, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, and Iran.

IOC President Thomas Bach, speaking last month at an IOC-sponsored forum, said there is a growing connection between the Olympics and esports. He stopped short of saying when — of even if — esports might make the Olympics. But he was enthusiastic about the dialogue.

“We feel the same passion for your activity as you feel the passion for our activity,” Bach told professional gamer Jake Lyon. Bach said at the forum that the Olympics and esports shared at least two values — “passion and excellence.”

Bach promised to explore ways the two communities can work together.

“On this solid ground we can build a partnership,” he said.

Esports offers a natural appeal for the IOC, which is looking for a younger audience and revenue.

Mike Morhaime, the CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, an American video games developer, told Bach at the forum that esports has 2 billion people worldwide playing electronic games, with 380 million watching esports. He said the viewer numbers could grow to about 600 million in two years, touching potential sponsors, gamers, professional leagues, and game developers.

The IOC has already included skateboarding, surfing and sports climbing into the schedule for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, hoping to draw a younger fan base.

“Anybody who enjoys watching traditional sports probably knows that the things that you grow up with are things that you are interested in throughout your whole life,” Morhaime said.

Nicolo Laurent, the CEO of Riot Games, said esports had 14 leagues and some elite players were making millions of dollars.

Morhaime said the demographic of esports was “20 to 40 years younger than traditional sports.”

“We are at an inflection point in esports,” Morhaime said. “Folks who hadn’t really been paying attention to the esports phenomenon are starting to really be interested.”

Count the Asian Games and the Olympics among them.

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