Esports at the Olympics?

It’s hard to look past the huge successes that esports has found over the past few years – games such as League of Legends have been propelled into a household name as the most recent events have managed to capture over one-hundred million viewers on the final days, with the finals even capturing up to 44 million concurrent viewers – figures that no sport outside of the Olympics or the World Cup has been able to achieve. If there had been any doubts that these elite esports athletes were anything but, those could soon be quelled as it looks like esports may become a fixture in the Olympics in the future – although perhaps not in the way many would expect.

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A big boon for esports over this past year has largely been within the ability to deliver familiarity to viewers who may not have otherwise been interested in the digital space – whilst the big three games that dominate the market may be harder to follow for some, games in traditional sporting such as football and basketball have started to find their time in the sun as the organisations themselves have developed online esports leagues for the titles – alongside the genre, the growth of other markets such as esports betting have become much more popular with this more casual audience too and have allowed many to find a new passion whilst more traditional options either remained unavailable through cancellation or postponement during the pandemic, or perhaps even just to find something new to watch.

This is likely where the Olympics will capitalise on a virtual alternative – but not as a replacement, but to go hand in hand. It had been suggested that as early perhaps as 2024, virtual games may be used to celebrate the traditional titles at the Olympics through events that can be played – some suggestions have been that high level gamers can play against the real athletes in these titles to drum up hype for an upcoming event over the course of a few days, or perhaps even have fan involvement as they can compete virtually against their favourite athletes. It certainly leaves some food for thought, and with plans being made to have these types of events played in the early days before any events get underway, it could certainly be successful.

With the 2020 Olympics being postponed until 2021, the timeline may be moved up too – esports as a whole had been able to thrive during the pandemic where others had struggled and the value is certainly being seen more and more, and whilst it will certainly be a case that games such as League of Legends will remain out of the games for some time, there’s nothing to say that a different competitive game may be able to fill the spot at the prestigious games. It’s an excitement time for sure, and helps to validate for many what the future of sports may become – not on the track or field, but through monitors and computers.

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