Despite being delayed for a year, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics finally went forward in Japan. While the Olympics is an ancient sporting event, it continues to evolve. Could we eventually see e-sports played at the Olympics? Glytch CEO and Oomba Founder Michael Williams believes so.
“The Olympics continues to evolve,” Michael Williams says. “Curling and tug-of-war, for example, have been cut from the Olympics. Skateboarding and surfing, meanwhile, have been added. It’s possible that organizers could one day add esports to the Olympics.”
Indeed, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) is already exploring ways to leverage virtual sports to broaden appeal. Ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the IOC hosted esport events in auto racing, baseball, cycling, rowing, and sailing. Competitors didn’t receive official Olympic gold medals, but they did enjoy some time in the spotlight.
The IOC’s official road map mentions digital engagement and using virtual sports to drum up interest among younger people. Specifically, the committee wants to “encourage the development of virtual sports and further engage with video gaming communities.”
Michael Williams believes this is a wise idea:
“Tastes change over time. Forty years ago, video games were a novelty. Now, gaming is a popular hobby and sport. And while traditional sports have struggled to maintain and grow audiences, esports have enjoyed rapid growth over the last several years. It’s only natural that the Olympics would engage with video games.”
So could we see video games and esports as an official Olympic sport? Quite possibly, but a lot of work remains. Even if the Olympics does decide to host esports, there are so many competitive games that selecting the right few games for official competition is no easy matter.
Older generations too may scoff at the idea of esports in the Olympics, not treating them as a serious sport. That said, competitiveness and skills are just as important with virtual games as it is for traditional sports.
“Becoming the top Call of Duty or League of Legends player usually takes a lot of practice and skill,” Glytch CEO Michael Williams says. “Sure, some people might be naturally talented when it comes to video games. But that’s true for traditional sports too.”
Indeed, video games may open up sports in general and offer more competition. If you’re not a tall individual, it’s especially difficult to become a professional basketball player. Yet with esports, you don’t need to win the genetic lottery to compete.
Another major focus for the IOC is increasing sustainability. In the past, many cities and governments built Olympic facilities that fell into disuse after the games. With esports, setting up competitive facilities is much easier than building pools, tracks, and the like.
“Esports are great from the point of sustainability,” Michael Williams from Glytch says. “You could build a large space to host esports then turn it into a conference center afterward, for example. Heck, you might not even need to build facilities, you can probably find already-built facilities in most major cities.”