Olympic Esports Week is organized by the International Olympic Committee and Singapore. ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is kicking off the first edition of Olympic Esport Week on Thursday 22 June. This event, which takes place until Sunday at the Suntec Convention Center in Singapore, is dedicated to the practice of competitive video games and virtual sports. Olympic rings oblige, the showcase of this meeting is above all its competitive component, called Olympic Series of e-sport.
Nine games related to sports disciplines have been chosen: Fortnite (tir), Just Dance (danse), Grand Touring (car racing), Chess.com (chess), Zwift (cycling), Virtual Regatta (sail), Tic Tac Bow (archery), Tennis Clash et WBSC eBaseball. The IOC was confronted with a shower of criticism concerning the absence of flagship disciplines, as well as the presence of unknown mobile games, when the program was formalized in March.
“As in the name “Olympic Esport Week”, there is the term “e-sport”, the e-sports communities would like to see competitions from “League of Legends”, from “Counter-Strike”, from “Valorant” (…). They are disappointed and have the impression that there is a form of instrumentalization of e-sport by the Olympic movement”analyzes Nicolas Besombes, teacher-researcher in science and techniques of physical and sports activities (Staps) at the University of Paris-Cité and specialist in e-sport.
“I can understand some reactions, responds to Monde Vincent Pereira, the IOC’s esports manager. But we have a global mission which is really to help the Olympic movement to develop. That’s why we only chose sports simulations or hybrid games with physical activity. » The violence of some shooting games also prevents them from being part of the event. “Games in which you can kill someone are not aligned with the Olympic values”he says.
The IOC has therefore required that, for each title offered, a video game publisher joins forces with an international federation. Another formula that contrasts with the usual model of e-sport, in which it is generally the creators of the games who organize their own competition. While certain alliances will surprise no one, such as that of Virtual Regatta with the World Sailing Federation, others question: the mobile game Tennis Clash, for example, stuffed with microtransactions, is not a top-tier tennis sim.
“The objective is not to attract mass audiences but to encourage mass participation among athletes, analyzes Nicolas Besombes. The IOC is quite well aware that by holding a competition on “Tic Tac Bow”, it will not affect the fans of “League of Legends”. » Young people nevertheless remain the first in the line of fire. “For twenty-five years, the IOC has observed a lack of interest among young urban generations in the Western world for sports that belong to the world beforeexplains Patrick Clastres, historian at the University of Lausanne, specialist in the IOC. To seduce them, they have already integrated new sports and new events, such as BMX and breaking… It is this audience that is targeted with e-sport. »
“Anchor an annual event”
Fact, “encourage the development of virtual sports” is one of the resolutions of the IOC roadmap for the period 2020-2025. Video game events have already been organized on the sidelines of the Pyeongchang 2018 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but their scale and impact have been weak.
Olympic Esports Week is on a completely different scale: 134 e-athletes from sixty-four countries are expected in Singapore, where only the finals of each tournament will take place, the qualification phases having already taken place online. Thirty hours of live video broadcast are planned on the site and social networks, as well as on the channels of associated streamers. Participation in the various events was open to all, with the exception of Fortnite : only a few of the world’s best players from Epic Games’ ultra-popular franchise have been invited to compete in a game mode designed for the occasion. No Olympic title or medal will be issued, as the event is not related to the Olympics.
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Finally, apart from the competition, friendly matches or demonstrations of other titles are planned, such as the fighting game Street Fighter 6the basketball simulation NBA 2K or the famous ball game with cars Rocket League. On the latter, a friendly meeting between two renowned e-sports teams, Karmine Corp and Gen. G Esports, was also made official on Tuesday.
“The ambition is to anchor an annual event. Today, we already have advanced discussions with France on the possibility of the second edition of Olympic Esport Week in 2024, and with other host countries for 2025 and 2026.”, says Vincent Pereira. However, France has not yet officially committed. The impact of this first edition, the budget of which has not been revealed, should determine the sustainability of the Olympic e-sports week.