IOC to launch Olympic Esports Games as an autonomous, standalone event

With the Olympic Esports Games disconnected from the pageantry of the Olympic Games, the IOC's offering will be competing directly with the existing and popular world esports championships

Lucas 'anon' Malissa celebrates as the inaugural Olympic Esports Series winner in shooting after winning the ISSF Challenge featuring Fortnite in Singapore June 24, 2023 (Photo: IOC, Lionel Ng)
Lucas ‘anon’ Malissa celebrates as the inaugural Olympic Esports Series winner in shooting after winning the ISSF Challenge featuring Fortnite in Singapore June 24, 2023 (Photo: IOC, Lionel Ng)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Friday announced its intention to launch the Olympic Esports Games, a standalone event that would feature digital sports underlined by the Olympic brand.

The IOC’s Executive Board came to the conclusion after hearing a report from its Esports Commission on the final day of the three day quarterly Executive Board meeting held at Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland. The proposal will be brought to the IOC Session for member ratification when the body meets starting July 22 in Paris.

IOC President Thomas Bach said Commission Chair David Lappartient, who has reached out to the Esports community for guidance since the initiative was first launched in 2018, will remain involved in the new branch of the Olympic Movement.

The IOC tested its Olympic values brand of Esports through the Olympic Virtual Series held in 2021 amid COVID pandemic lockdowns, followed by the Olympic Esports Series held in Singapore in June 2023.

“This will bring our engagement in esports to a complete new level,” Bach told reporters following the meeting.

Esports world championships are currently staged by two international federations that are not recognized by the IOC. The Busan, South Korea based International Esports Federation (IeSF) was established in 2008 and has since held annual World Esports Championships featuring the most current and popular competitive titles. The newer Global Esports Federation (GEF) based in Singapore has several IOC ties and stages the Global Esports Games.

In an X post, the GEF wrote “A wonderful day. Congratulations IOC for shining light and embracing esports and the #worldconnected community  The future is better together.”

Both tournaments stage digital-only titles that are a mix of simulated sports (such as eFootball) and battle games (including first-person shooter games Counter-strike). The violent games, also typically the most popular among gamers, cross a “red line” leading beyond Olympic values Bach has often said.

Instead the IOC has experimented with more family-friendly non-violent titles and hybrid Esports such as cycling on a stationary bicycle using Zwift. An online version of Chess was also in the mix at Olympic Esports Series, and was likely the most popular offering.

Under the IOC model, competition titles are proposed by Olympic recognized federations as digital representations of their sport. For the Olympic Esports Series that included titles such as Tennis Clash and Tic Tac Bow for archery.

But many in the greater gaming community criticized the IOC’s events for their lackluster list of titles devoid of the games they love. Bach defended “we are the exclusive owners of these Olympic Esports Games and the commitment to these values is very clear and there we have a proven track record with the Olympic Virtual Series where you can see on the program that this red line was fully respected and one of the publishers even changed the format of the Games to be part of the virtual series.”

Yet Esports players were disappointed when publisher Epic Games’ popular multiplayer battle royale game Fortnite was stripped down to become a customized target shooting competition for the Olympic Esports Series.

With the Olympic Esports Games disconnected from the pageantry of the Olympic Games, the IOC’s offering will be competing directly with the existing and popular world championships.

Bach believes the Olympic Esports Games will be on a tier above the existing tournaments just as the Olympic Games are the pinnacle event for most of the sports on the program.

“We want to establish it on top of the already successful esports events,” Bach said when asked by

“We want to put these Olympic Esports Games as a highlight and as the peak for Esports players and gamers and this will also be reflected in the composition of the program where we will have, let’s say, the three different e-activities.

“You have the virtual sports meaning with physical activity like cycling, or others where you have the simulation, let’s say eNBA, and where you have the traditional e-games. In this Olympic esports Games you will have all three pillars.”

He said that during engagement with the Esports community, they liked the model and “they see the attractivity of the Olympic brand also for their community and want to engage with it.”

The IOC stopped short of integrating Esports with the traditional Olympic Games and have created a separate structure that seems intended to protect the financial benefits that are distributed to the member sports federations – up to USD $4.2 million daily according to the IOC.

“The structure will be within the IOC there will be no outsourcing of this structure. It is also clear that the IOC is the exclusive owner of these Games but for organizational and logistical reasons we have to separate this from the model of the Olympic Games because not all of the International Federations are governing their Esports.”

“Not even a third, so far, of the National Olympic Committees are engaged with Esports so the model of the Olympic Games … does not work for this Olympic Esports Games.

“This is why it will be separated and this also applies to the financing and marketing of this Olympic Esports Games.”

Esports have been successfully integrated with some continental Games including the Asian Games and the Pan Am Games where financial compensation to International Federations are less of an issue.

“Also to give assurance to all of the many recipients of our subsidies … that they can be rest assured that we are not entering into a financial adventure which would put their subventions at risk.,” Bach said.

“This solidarity model will continue at full strength and on the other hand we will make sure these Olympic Esports Games will have a very sound organization and financial base.”

The IOC said they are now involved in advanced discussions to secure the first host of the event and an announcement could be made in the near future. Recently Kyodo News reported that Japan is in the running to stage the first edition in 2026 but the IOC later said other regions are involved in discussions and no timelines are in play.

A host cannot be announced until IOC members approve plans through a vote at the July Session in Paris.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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