Sweden Abruptly Decides Esports Are Not Sports When It Comes To COVID-19 Exemptions

from the going-viral dept

We've marked an awful lot of progress markers when it comes to the emergence of esports into the popular lexicon throughout the world. If there were a general theme to those posts, it certainly would be the progress esports has made in being considered a real, established sport, and not just a hobby that borrows that word with no validity. Progress, as I enjoy saying, is not linear, however.

And now it appears that how at least one nation is dealing with the world's early emergence from COVID-19 protocols, is exposing one minor step back on all the progress. Sweden was set to host Valve's DOTA 2 big championship contest, The International, until very recently when the country's sports federation suddenly decided that esports aren't actual sports when it comes to COVID-19 travel exemptions. By way of background, this tournament was originally supposed to be held in Sweden in 2020, but it got pushed to 2021 due to the pandemic. As Valve planned for the event, it worked with the Swedish authorities to make sure everything was a go.

As Valve outline in a blog post, Sweden still has a number of stringent restrictions in place regarding public gatherings, which would otherwise threaten the ability to hold a big in-person tournament like The International, even though elite sporting events have been excluded from these.

Valve claims that as planning continued local authorities “continued to reassure us in our regular and constant communications with them that The International - Dota 2 Championships qualified for the same exemptions other elite sporting events there received.”

The exemption language specifically states that travel exemptions would apply to, among other categories,:

-people travelling for the purpose of performing highly skilled work, if their contribution is necessary from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed remotely, including people who will take part in or perform necessary tasks at elite sports competitions

That sure does sound like The International would fit the categorization. Due to that and to the communication with the Swedish government, Valve planned to host the tourney in Stockholm. Then, suddenly, The Swedish Sports Federation voted to not allow any esports organizations as members. As a result, the COVID-19 exemptions no longer would apply to anyone traveling to the country for the tournament. Soccer and other sporting matches that include large crowds and international players are all moving forward; esports tourneys like The International will not.

Not wanting to give up, Valve instead asked Sweden’s Minister of the Interior to “reclassify The International - Dota 2 Championships as an elite sporting event.” Which he immediately refused. They then appealed directly to the Swedish government, and were knocked back again.

So now, as July approaches, Valve has decided to all but abandon their Swedish plans and start “looking for possible alternatives elsewhere in Europe to host the event this year, in case the Swedish government is unable to accommodate The International - Dota 2 Championships as planned.”

Now, we can argue all day long whether the world in general, or Sweden in particular, is in the right place when it comes to combatting COVID-19, whether large sporting events like this should even be held, or under what circumstances they should be held. But what doesn't seem to make sense in any capacity is to have the approval to host this agreed upon tournament live at the pleasure of a Swedish sports organization's opinion on whether or not esports is sports-y enough to warrant the same exemptions as other large sporting events.

Two steps forward, one step back, when it comes to esports' place in the world alongside more traditional athletic events. And with just a dash of annoying bureaucracy to boot.

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Filed Under: covid, covid-19, esports, sweden, travel


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 8:56pm

    You never fail to get under my expectation.

    the emergence of esports into the popular lexicon throughout the world.

    The lexicon? What about events / entertainments? Just LOUSY writing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 8:57pm

    Re: You never fail to get under my expectation.

    If there were a general theme to those posts, it certainly would be

    IF there were? You're actually say there ISN'T, which is just again LOUSY writing.

    You haven't improved, and won't ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    ferridder (profile), 22 Jun 2021 @ 9:53pm

    Google translate strikes again

    The word used in the Swedish foreign ministry regulation (idrott) means an athletic/physical sport.
    E-sports do count as ”sport”, just not ”idrott”. Chess is in the same part of the Venn diagram, so no chess tournaments for Sweden, either.

    This could go away with the stroke of a pen if the Swedish foreign ministry wanted to tweak one word in their rule.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 10:34pm

    Re: Re:

    Hey blue, how's that Sidney Powell defense fund coming along? Didn't you say discovery was supposed to be fun?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 11:42pm

    Just add “sport” to playing video games, and voilà, it must be true! I mean, it’s in the name after all.

    Add “sport” to restaurants (sport-buffet), concert halls, building-supply stores (loading boards as a sport!), and everything goes!

    The bigger question is why allow exceptions for sports at all? Does the Covid jump over sporting halls like the proverbial “blood on the doorposts” wards off the angel of death?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Hair Glo (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 12:02am

    comment

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 1:05am

    Re:

    The physical demands are going to be vastly less but games still require high levels of skill to play competitively, from quick decision making, teamwork, good reflexes, all things that are vital components of more physical sports, so I can see why it would make sense to consider them such.

    That said I very much agree with your third point, either it's safe to congregate in large numbers in close proximity or it's not, the fact that the congregation in question is sports related really shouldn't matter or justify health and safety concerns brushed aside.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    tp (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 1:05am

    Re: Google translate strikes again

    Swedish foreign ministry regulation (idrott) means an athletic/physical sport.

    Their drunken parties are not physical enough?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    PaulT (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 1:57am

    Re:

    "Add “sport” to restaurants (sport-buffet), concert halls, building-supply stores (loading boards as a sport!), and everything goes!"

    Or, stop being an asshole and understand that games of skill can have the term "sport" applied even if you don't have to partake in strenuous activity in order to play.

    "The bigger question is why allow exceptions for sports at all?"

    It's all a question of balance. Sports are worth a lot of money, and since athletes are already subject to greater monitoring and restrictions compared to the general public, it's easy to justify them having an exception that doesn't apply to the public at this time.

    "Does the Covid jump over sporting halls like the proverbial “blood on the doorposts” wards off the angel of death?"

    No, but people who aren't raging morons understand things like risk, how to mitigate it, and that if you properly manage an infection it won't spread beyond the volunteers who have been exposed. These events tend to be more of a problem when you get people who refuse to follow basic healthcare rules and spread the disease as far as possible, but that's not happening in the context of a professional sport tournament, al least not among the players.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 2:09am

    Videogames can be played remotely, so sport or not a videogame tournament wouldn't qualify.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 2:22am

    Re:

    ‘Sports bars” should be just as allowed as “esports.” It’s also in the name. Why would they lie?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    PaulT (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 2:33am

    Re:

    A videogame can be played remotely. A professional level tournament game with issues introduced by remote play - ranging from potentially modified equipment to unpredictable internet lag that could give one competitor or team a huge advantage over another? Not so much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Bobvious, 23 Jun 2021 @ 5:11am

    And now for some Swedish context

    A comment from Basshunter, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTsaS1Tm-Ic or something from the Swedish Prime Minister, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P75lkpL7aGk

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    BJC (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 6:42am

    Where's the context?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    BJC (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 6:49am

    Re: Where's the context?

    Sorry, hit enter too early; apparently you comment by hitting enter in the subject bar.

    Anyway, this bit just rehashes a brief Kotaku article. I looked around and didn't find much that elaborated it elsewhere.

    And I feel there's not enough on exactly how much public health responsibility the Ministry of Sport has, the discretion it has in its ability to exempt sports, and basically every other piece of information that could tell me whether the Ministry could declare curling or bowling or table tennis or any other indoor sport "not a sport" for purposes of the exemption due to public health reasons.

    And if you want to go and grab me a link that makes that distinction, great! You've now done more work than Mr. Geigner, who wrote a "Schrodinger's Swedish Law" of an article where the point is only true if we look in the box and find out that there's no public health consideration or that it wasn't considered here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 7:48am

    Re: Re: Google translate strikes again

    You're drunken enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 7:52am

    Re: Re:

    That raises the question about how "remote" things should need to be. It's hard to play football without players coming within 2 m of each other. For video games, it's easy. Players would need to be let into the country, but no "public gathering" would be necessary. Rent some space in an underused office park, put each player in a separate office, and stream the result. While it'll lack the excitement of a big LANparty-style hall, we've gotten used to such hardships.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re:

    Someone’s an asshole for not having the same opinion as you?

    This would never have been an issue if playing video games was called “e-war, e-battle, or e-games.” Adding sport to something doesn’t make it so.

    I prefer that sports-bars stay open during the pandemic. It’s right there in the name!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 8:28am

    Re:

    It doesn't matter when whatever Swedish functionaries constantly and repeatedly reassured Valve that the event would be just fiiiiine, and then suddenly said no.

    That's known in the trades as, "being a dick".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 8:30am

    Re:

    Any non-team sports can be played remotely also.

    With equal or lesser issues to a gaming competition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 8:32am

    I hope ESA would ditch Sweden like the fucking plague for it's summer / winter events.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    AC Unknown (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: You never fail to get under my expectation.

    Honestly, if you don't like it here, then leave and go start your own blog.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Re: You never fail to fall below my expectations.*

    If
    isn’t

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 12:18pm

    Re:

    I agree. Sweden doesn’t need more gamer-bois leaving their basements to bring Covid to our beautiful country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re: Where's the context?

    the "Enter" key, representing the carriage return, has not been in vogue as a form navigation tool since the GUI was introduced. By windows 95, Tab was adopted as the form navigation key of choice.

    I'm unsure why you thought differently.

    There is no Ministry of Sport, so I'm not clear which body your ar referring to. It appears you are confusing appeals made to the minister of the interior with the Sweedish Sports Federation a quasi public entity that fills some Sweedish government functions in relation to sports.

    Not much ink has been spilled on them in English, primarily because outside the connection to international football, they aren't a body that generally makes International news. But so far as I can determine, they hold as much authority as the state level sports commissions in the US, which could shut down sporting events pretty unilaterally for health concerns. Its a large part of why the WWE admitted the scripted nature of wrestling in the 90s, to avoid both steroid scandals and sports commissions.

    Of course a quick google search could have told you that, and it really doesn't doesn't affect the story. But given how long you've been in a coma, I suppose your ignorance of google is understandable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Where's the context?

    Being openly a prick like you are in your last paragraph makes reading sites like these much less enjoyable. Sarcasm being the last bastion of the halfwit seems applicable to you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Re:

    if anything, I'd say sports bars are closer in analogy to the audience of a let's player. certainly important, but not necessarily playing the game itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 5:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Where's the context?

    You know, if you don't like it here, you're always free to go off and start your own blog. No one's stopping you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah you guys already fucked up enough with your “let everyone catch it” COVID plan. No need to expose more innocent people to your country’s policy failures.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 7:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Where's the context?

    the "Enter" key, representing the carriage return, has not been in vogue as a form navigation tool since the GUI was introduced. By windows 95, Tab was adopted as the form navigation key of choice.

    Enter's a big key, easy to hit by accident while aiming for Shift. Who'd expect a website to accept empty comments anyway? Even in the old days, if someone designed a form such that an accidental keypress would irrevocably submit it while incomplete, we might have complained of bad design.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    PaulT (profile), 24 Jun 2021 @ 12:44am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Someone’s an asshole for not having the same opinion as you?"

    No, they're being an asshole by using a reductio ad absurdum argument to attack something they disagree with.

    "Adding sport to something doesn’t make it so"

    Redefining sport to only include strenuously physical activity doesn't either.

    "It’s right there in the name!"

    Yes, in the context that makes you an idiot for mentioning them!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. icon
    PaulT (profile), 24 Jun 2021 @ 12:48am

    Re: Re:

    They don't lie, you're just being a dickhead in order to make a stupid point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. icon
    PaulT (profile), 24 Jun 2021 @ 12:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Indeed. He thinks he's trying to be clever by mentioning the audience of one type of sport to compare with the participants of another type of sport. No matter your opinion of the terminology, that's really stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2021 @ 3:21am

    Re: Google translate strikes again

    Incredibly confusing since it seems like you could distance a chess or video game player far more easily than most other sports involving a ball.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2021 @ 3:24am

    Re:

    A major championship cannot be played online. Full stop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 24 Jun 2021 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re:

    Careful, your prejudice is showing behind your ignorance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Professor Ronny, 27 Jun 2021 @ 7:58am

    Physical Activity

    According to dictionary.com, sports is:

    an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. icon
    PaulT (profile), 27 Jun 2021 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Physical Activity

    "any particular pastime indulged in for pleasure"

    According to dictionary.com sport it's also defined as "any particular pastime indulged in for pleasure" and "to amuse oneself with some pleasant pastime or recreation.".

    It's weird how using the term as a singular rather than a plural can change the definitions, and I wonder which word is the correct one to use when referring to a singular sport.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2021 @ 7:46am

    Re:

    ‘Sports bars” should be just as allowed as “esports.” It’s also in the name. Why would they lie?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    Erik, 12 Jul 2021 @ 1:43am

    e-sport should not be part of the swedish sport union

    As part of the Riksidrottsförbundet (swedish sport federation) we do not want to encourage more childrens to sit home and playing games due to many facts. Not only because it is sedentary, it is also about the social interation which you can not get by sitting ALONE in your room and using bad langauge.

    I would say that gym would be a better option if you do not want to do other sports.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. icon
    PaulT (profile), 12 Jul 2021 @ 2:03am

    Re: e-sport should not be part of the swedish sport union

    "it is also about the social interation which you can not get by sitting ALONE in your room and using bad langauge"

    Because as we know, nobody ever swears while playing physical sports :rolls eyes:

    "I would say that gym would be a better option if you do not want to do other sports."

    So is hiking, but after doing that I'd prefer to play some videogames rather than watching crap on TV. Yet, if someone does that competitively and gets good enough to do it semi-professionally, you'd like to denigrate their skills because some other people choose to do it on an amateur basis rather than gawp passively at the box.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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