The international Olympic Committee (IOC) is searching for a host city to organize the second Olympic Esports Week with six cites being names as “interested.”
IOC Head of Virtual Sports Vincent Pereira told French sports publication L’Équipe that Paris will be given first right of refusal to host the event alongside the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games next year but organizers must decide by the end of July before other cities will be considered. Among those are Singapore after that city hosted the inaugural edition last month, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, New York and Shenzhen. Pereira didn’t rule out other interest.
Pereira said “Discussions with the Ministry of Sports continue, there is still a desire from France to do so… but there is still uncertainty related to the budget, to the program.”
He added “They want to push to see more popular games and get community support, which we understand. At the same time, we are maintaining discussions with other cities.”
The first edition staged at the Suntec Convention Centre from June 22 to 25 faced initial criticism, especially from the esports community, for including titles that weren’t popular among pro gamers. Other widely popular games such as Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were noticeably absent.
Pereira acknowledged these issues, but claimed the competitions and demonstrations attended by 20,000 fans across four days accomplished the goals targeted by the inaugural event.
“The feedback from the 130 players on the event was excellent, as was that from the International Federations, game publishers, National Olympic Committees, teams…” he said.
“In terms of audiences, we knew that the figures would not be very high but that was not a goal for us.
“There are two major objectives. First, a desire to engage with communities that are outside the Olympic movement, in order to create links that do not exist. Then, promote the development of new practices for traditional sport and create places to connect with new generations.”
Pereira explained to L’Équipe that the event evolved rapidly, even in the weeks leading up the opening ceremony, in response to online reaction. But changes were limited due necessary links with international sports federations to comply with the IOC governance framework, and offering only titles that are simulations of real word Olympic recognized sports.
“We were bad at communication. We forgot to recall the constraint of having an international federation and we did not know how to explain well what this Olympic Esports Week was in its entirety. We simply shared a list of games.
“We hear the criticism, the frustration, that’s why we pushed for (Epic Games) Fortnite, for example. Now, detaching ourselves completely from the Olympic movement to take only the popular games, we cannot do it.”
He said “From the start, we have wanted to support the Olympic movement. Having an international sports federation that creates a link is therefore a necessary standard of Olympic Esports Week.
And even further changes have not been ruled out, he added “Today we are unable to say: ‘There will never be a (Riot Games) League of Legends.’ In truth, it could be an exhibition next year or in 2025. It’s a question of time, of development.
“Our vision must evolve. It was only the first edition, again. The door is not closed, except to Counter-Strike (a realistic war game). This is the red line of the IOC, repeated several times. We understand that these are fictional characters but the action of killing someone in the game… We must not forget the scope of the IOC.”
Although the IOC hopes to host Olympic Esports Week alongside the Olympic Games there are no immediate plans to include the events on the official Olympic program.
Pereira noted that some of the winning athletes were self-proclaiming themselves as Olympic Champions. The top three finalists were awarded with trophies and not medals.
He said “We knew it would happen, but it’s not the same as the Olympics. On this subject, the question is still open, but if the integration is done, it will be done on sports simulations with physical engagement, like (stationary bike riding platform) Zwift.”