from the facepalm dept
You will recall that a few weeks back we discussed the Paris Olympic Committee’s open attitude towards looking at eSports for inclusion in the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games. This refreshing stance from an Olympic committee was a welcome step in the eSports trend, although it came with no promises taht we would actually see eSports in Paris seven years from now. The IOC, as always, would have the final say, and we all knew the massive headwind eSports would face with the grandpappy Olympic committee: eSports aren’t real sports. Hell, I’m sure many advocates for competitive gaming were already gearing up to fight that fight.
Unfortunately, it looks like the IOC is likely to turn its nose up at eSports for entirely different and far, far more stupid reasons. The first of those dumb reasons, according to IOC President Thomas Bach, will indeed have a familiar ring to gamers.
“We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people,” Bach told the South China Morning Post. “This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.”
The Kotaku piece points out that Bach himself won the gold medal in 1976 for fencing. While nobody would want to make the claim that competitive fencing is violent, are we really to believe that fencing is less a simulacrum for violence than a video game? Not to mention that this blanket statement that video games are about violence at their core is simply wrong, even on the competitive eSports level. Many games of course include violence. But some do not. Bach himself went on to half-heartedly acknowledge this with a nod towards sports simluations that could perhaps still be included, but the very focus on violence is frustratingly dumb. After all, boxing, judo, karate and wrestling have been or are featured Olympic events, and all of them are clearly more “violent” than video games. And that sets aside sports like water polo, which are known to be physically brutal.
But violent or no, eSports athletes may find themselves not included in the Olympics over an even more laughable concern: doping.
Bach also pointed out that the esports industry remains an under-regulated space compared to traditional sports: “You have to have somebody who is guaranteeing you that these athletes doing video sports games are not doped, that they are following technical rules, that they are respecting each other.”
Okay, stop it. Nobody would claim that eSports is without its drug issues, but the IOC of all organizations keeping it out of the Games over doping concerns is as farcical as it gets. The IOC would tell you, I’m sure, that it is opposite eSports in being one of if not the most regulated sporting event on the planet, and yet doping and PEDs are everywhere in the Olympics. The IOC and its event are no paragon of virtue when it comes to performance enhancing drugs. Listing that as a concern makes this whole thing seem like a joke.
So what is this pushback actually about? Likely money, as with all things the IOC. If it felt that eSports being included would be a major money-maker for the IOC, these concerns would melt away faster than a Usain Bolt dash. Once eSports reaches a certain popularity threshhold, which the trend seems to indicate is likely, they’ll get their Olympic bid. It just might not be in 2024.