Liaison group formed to assess Olympic merits of esports

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) have formed an Esports Liaison Group as the debate continues over the potential inclusion of esports in the Olympic Games.

The announcement was made as the two parties held an Esports Forum at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne on Saturday. Participants included over 150 representatives from across the esports and gaming ecosystem – players, publishers, teams, media, sponsors and event organisers – and from across the Olympic Movement – National Olympic Committees (NOCs), International Sports Federations (IFs), athletes, partners, broadcasters, the IOC and the GAISF.

The Forum explored areas of commonality and potential collaboration, including the question of whether esports could be recognised as a sport, and in which form they could be represented within the Olympic Movement, when an organisation does not currently exist that represents esports globally and could align with the Olympic values, rules and regulations. For this reason, the IOC and GAISF said the question of whether esports could be included on the Olympic programme was not an immediate goal of the Forum.

The IOC and the GAISF will now establish an Esports Liaison Group to continue communication and engagement between the Olympic Movement and esports and gaming stakeholders in order to identify areas of potential collaboration.

The IOC will invite members of the Esports Liaison Group to present at the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires on October 5-6, which will benefit from the presence of athletes from the forthcoming Youth Olympic Games in the Argentine capital.

Esports will be discussed with the IFs at the GAISF IF Forum on November 5-7 in Lausanne, as well as with all 206 NOCs at the Association of National Olympic Committees’ (ANOC) general assembly on November 28-29 in Tokyo. Esports will also be on the agenda for the next Olympic Summit to be held in December.

GAISF president Patrick Baumann said: “One thing in particular was clear from these fascinating discussions – we are united by passion for our sports and a shared love of competition. That’s a positive starting point for further discussions about possible future cooperation between the Olympic and esports communities.”

The IOC has been steadfast in its stance that any inclusion of esports in the Olympics would not utilise games that encourage violence or discriminatory elements. In the lead up to the Pyeongchang 2018 winter Olympics, IOC TOP partner Intel organised the Intel Extreme Masters Pyeongchang event, featuring Blizzard Entertainment’s ‘StarCraft II’ title. The company also launched a separate exhibition featuring video game developer Ubisoft’s ‘Steep Road to the Olympics’ title, the official licensed game of Pyeongchang 2018.

Esports is set to make its debut at a major multi-sport event at the forthcoming Asian Games, which run from August 18 to September 2 in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia. Esports will feature as a demonstration event, with the following titles showcased: League of Legends (Team 5v5), Hearthstone (1v1), Starcraft II (1v1), Arena of Valor (4v4), Clash Royale (1v1) and Pro Evolution Soccer (1v1).

Commenting on Saturday’s Forum, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said: “There was a consensus that future collaboration will be based on ensuring that any activity supports and promotes the Olympic values; and while the goal was not to develop a pathway towards the inclusion of esports on the Olympic programme, we have a strong plan for ongoing dialogue and engagement, and are in a strong position to coordinate and support the wider engagement of the Olympic Movement with esports.”