eSports one step closer to Olympic inclusion

Video games have been accepted as a second-level Olympic sport, putting eSports into the same category as engagements such as Chess, Automobile Racing, Polo and Cheerleading. The push came from – where else? – the Korean eSport Association (KeSPA), and could see eSports included in the international competition some time in the future.



The decision was made by the Korea Sports Council’s board of directors earlier this week, with KeSPA one of four member organisations who ratified their affiliation to the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC). Recognition by the KOC will serve as an endorsement to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who is in charge of inclusion and exclusion of sporting events at the Olympic Games.

While you’d be forgiven for thinking that gamers the world over are rejoicing at the news their “hobby” is being taken seriously by one of the world’s major sporting bodies, it seems many fans are disappointed by KeSPA’s push for recognition.

The key problem, it seems, is that eSports “is not one single discipline”, as Redditor daydriem observes:

But what would you even count as e-sport? Is it league? Starcraft? And consider that the olympics are only every 4 years. Some games don’t even have a lifespan that long! In fact, few games have ever had the longevity that they could have been played in more than one olympics… Once a game demonstrates that it will be around for the long term, we can talk about this. It just doesn’t make sense, it’s not a good match.

Other gamers have raised questions over which games could be accepted by the IOC – by their nature, video games are owned and operated by single, private companies. Major games publishers including Blizzard and Riot have been campaigning for the inclusion of video games and eSports as Olympic sports. KeSPA’s official recognition by the KOC means that – eventually – we could see gold medals being handed out for sports such as StarCraft or League of Legends, as long as everybody can work out just how it’ll all work.

New sports are introduced at most Summer Olympics – the 2012 London Games saw women’s boxing included for the first time, while the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games look set to include golf and rugby sevens. It’s unlikely that eSports will join the lineup for Brazil, but the decision is still a big step forward for the young sport.

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