Video Games Might Actually, Genuinely Be Coming To The Olympics Soon
The Olympics have long been associated with more traditional (and crucially, physical) sports like running, swimming, diving, cycling, and the noble discus, but in recent years the rising, thriving esports scene has been edging its way towards the iconic international sporting event. If I were a betting man, I'd say it really is only a matter of time before we see pro Overwatch players in the "proper" Olympics, although I'm well aware that's bound to cause all manner of upset and outrage.
Still, it's coming sooner or later - of this we can be sure. The latest evidence to support this theory comes via an Intel-hosted $500,000 gaming tournament that's set to take place during the lead-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The Esports Observer (via Kotaku) reports that the Intel World Open will focus on two games; Street Fighter V and Rocket League, with a handsome $250,000 prize pool for each. According to Intel's director of business development Mark Subotnick, these titles were specifically chosen because it's easy for casual viewers who might not be familiar with either title to follow the action and understand what's going on. The pedigree of the Street Fighter franchise in Japan was also a factor, Subotnick revealed.
Anyone can get registered and involved with the open online qualifiers to select the national teams the countries involved, before a final qualifying event kicks off in Poland in June to decide who makes it to the official competition in Japan. Thrillingly, The Intel World Open itself leads right into the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will surely help build a closer association between esports and Olympics.
There's been some debate over whether or not to include video games in the Olympics over the years, which I'm sure won't come as a surprise to you, dear reader. Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee had previously suggested including esports at the 2024 Summer Olympics, prompting International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach to offer some choice words to the South China Morning Post back in 2017.
"We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people," Bach said at the time. "This doesn't match with video games, which are about violence, explosions, and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line."
Despite this, it was only a year later that Timo Lumme, managing director of television and marketing services for the International Olympic Committee said that they would "explore esports' relationship with the Olympic Movement further," and teased an "exciting future." Like I said, it's only a matter of time.
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo/Capcom/SEGA