In addition to hosting the 2024 Olympic Games, Paris may also play host to a brand new Olympic event, and it’s one that doesn’t necessarily evoke the usual visions of physical strength, agility and endurance we’ve come to expect. In 2024, the summer Olympics could possibly include competitive video gaming or, as its also known, “esports.”
Esports have skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade and, if the trend continues, they’ll be more popular than ever by the time the world’s best athletes convene in the city of lights in 2024. Olympic planners know they can’t afford to ignore this fact.
Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, told the Associated Press that he is planning to hold talks with esports representatives and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to discuss the potential of including video games in the official roster of Olympic events in Paris.
“We have to look at it,” Estanguet said. “The youth, yes they are interested in esport and this kind of thing. Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges. I don’t want to say ‘no’ from the beginning. I think it’s interesting to interact with the IOC, with them, the esports family, to better understand what the process is and why it is such a success.”
If you’re imagining competitive gaming as a few people crowded around computer screens in a suburban basement, chugging Mountain Dew in silence while furiously clicking their keyboards, then you aren’t familiar with the modern world of esports.
Esports tournaments fill stadiums with spectators around the world. Prominent gamers have legions of passionate fans and attract lucrative sponsorships from companies eager to show off their technology and associate themselves with popular personalities in the gaming world.
Last year, the Intel Extreme Masters esports event in Poland set records with over 113,000 fans watching the competition live at the Spodek Arena, and an astounding 34 million people tuning in online.
With numbers like that, it’s easy to see why Olympics planners are considering legitimizing a sport that takes place on a computer screen. If you’re angling for a spot on Team USA, start practicing your video gaming, just to cover your bases.