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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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MORE: Magnus Carlsen: Chess deserves Olympic priority over esports

IOC plans esports forum as it weighs video games in Olympics

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The International Olympic Committee will host a forum on esports next month as it explores the possibility of one day including video games in the Olympics.

The IOC and Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) will host the event July 21 at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. The forum, announced Tuesday, will bring together gaming executives, players, sponsors and event organizers with a goal of building relationships between Olympic leaders and the esports industry.

IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell says the forum will be a “great opportunity for both the Olympic Movement and representatives from the world of esports and gaming to begin a discussion, listen and learn from each other, and understand the potential opportunities for collaboration.”

The IOC and other Olympic leaders discussed esports at a summit last fall.

They determined esports could be considered a sporting activity and that it’s growth and popularity with younger demographics would be attractive to the Olympics. Summit participants charged the IOC and GAISF with opening a dialogue between the gaming industry and Olympic officials.

MORE: Magnus Carlsen: Chess deserves Olympic priority over esports

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