“I have asked our new IOC Esports Commission to study the creation of Olympic Esports Games,” Bach said in his opening speech, highlighting the supposed success of its Olympic Esports Series held earlier this year in Singapore.
We say “supposed” because the games were met with a lot of criticism for excluding some of the most popular games in the world, and for including titles made by companies and developers that have direct ties to governing body members in both sports and esports (TEA detailed those connections in this report from March). Those games included archery (Tic Tac Bow), dance (Just Dance), Baseball (WBSC eBaseball Power Pros), chess (Chess.com), cycling (Zwift), motorsports (Gran Turismo), sailing (Virtual Regatta), tennis (Tennis Clash), and Taekwondo (virtual Taekwondo).
Recently the IOC established an Esports Commission led by International Cycling Union and French National Olympic and Sports Committee President David Lappartient, with the goal of creating these Olympic Esports Games.
IOC President announces plans to create Olympic Esports Games at opening of 141st IOC Session in Mumbai.
“I have asked our new IOC Esports Commission to study the creation of Olympic Esports Games.” – Thomas Bach said in his opening speech.#IOCMumbai2023 pic.twitter.com/C4lo9Vl7Un
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) October 14, 2023
During his speech Bach noted that there are “three billion people playing esports and gaming around the world,” that an estimated “500 million of them are interested specifically in esports, which includes virtual sports and sport simulations,” and that a majority of those people are under the age of 34. This is why, he said, the IOC has made the “the strategic decision to engage with esports in a holistic way but trying to stay “true to our values that have guided us for over a century.”
The values he refers to are about violence—or more precisely—excluding games that are considered too violent.
Ultimately, Bach reiterated that the IOC’s long-standing policy on “violent games” will remain in place (that they will never be included in a medaled esports competition). What that means is we will never see gold medals earned for some of the most popular esports titles in the world including Counter-Strike 2, PUBG, Call of Duty, Valorant, League of Legends, Dota 2, etc. The position is interesting considering that sports that contain some level of violence such as wrestling, boxing, tae kwon do, judo, etc., have been embraced as proper medaled, real-world sports.
What this does mean is that there may be an opportunity for sports-adjacent titles to become medaled esports in the future such as Rocket League, Madden NFL, EA Sports FC, dance games, and NBA 2K, as examples.