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Video Games Might Become an Olympic Sport

Tennis, gymnastics, basketball and...Overwatch?

by Katherine Gillespie
08 August 2017, 11:00pm

Screenshot via YouTube

This originally appeared on VICE AU.

According Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, we could be watching esports alongside rhythmic gymnastics and volleyball at the 2024 Summer Olympics.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, Estanguet said he was in consultation with esports representatives as well as the International Olympic Committee about whether or not it's feasible to include video games in the 2024 programme. While Paris has not officially been granted its 2024 Olympic bid, the city is the guaranteed host of the XXXIII Olympiad after competitor Los Angeles agreed to withhold its bid until 2028.

"We have to look at it," Estanguet said, "because we can't say, 'It's not us. It's not about Olympics.' The youth, yes they are interested in esport and this kind of thing. Let's look at it. Let's meet them. Let's try if we can [to] find some bridges."

Estanguet isn't exactly wrong. The youth sure do love to stream the big game. Twitch, the biggest esports streaming site, draws 100 million viewers a month. And tournaments tend to pack out stadiums, too. In 2015, the final battle in the League of Legends competition had 36 million unique viewers for its live stream as well as an arena full of spectators in Berlin.

While esports might not mimic "true" sports in terms of the physicality required, they're very similar in other ways—players earn millions of dollars as well as celebrity status, team rivalries are passionate, and training regimes gruelling. Traditional sport bodies have found themselves threatened by esports as well: In Australia, the Australian Football League has expressed interest in streaming its games on services like Twitch in an effort to claw back the attention of younger viewers.

While esports tournaments draw millions of spectators, hosting esport competitions alongside "true" sports is rare. A precedent has been set however by the Asian Games—the largest multi-sport event in Asia—which has promised to include them in its 2022 edition. If the Paris Olympics follow suit, the home team may have an advantage: the French government last year announced plans to regulate esport player contracts in the same way it regulates those of more traditional sportspeople.

While it's weird to think of watching video games during the Olympics, a move towards esports might prove a natural shift for broadcasters: televised sports ratings dropped during the Rio Olympics, while online viewership surged.

There's no word as yet to which games might be included in an Olympic esports competition, or whether players who die in the game will die in real life.

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