Esports are “too violent” to be included in the Olympic Games anytime in the near future and are incompatible with Olympic values.
That was the viewpoint espoused by Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, on Saturday, Sept. 1 at the prestigious Asian Games, which hosted esports competitions as a demonstration sport for the first time in Jakarta, Indonesia, according to The Associated Press.
“We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination,” Bach told the AP in an interview.
“So-called killer games. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values
and cannot therefore be accepted.”
Bach was quick to make a distinction between esports — a rapidly growing industry in which players compete against one another in multiplayer video games — and combat sports, which have been a mainstay at the Olympic Games for more than a century.
Amateur boxing, judo, taekwondo and wrestling — sports in which competitors are often slammed, pinned, punched and kicked — have all been featured in the Olympic Games.
These athletic feats were described as “civilized” by Bach, who believes video games cross the line by depicting characters being killed.
“Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people,” he said.
“But sport is the civilized expression about this. If you have egames where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values,” Bach told the AP.
Bach is no stranger to combat sports. While representing West Germany, the 64-year-old president of the IOC won a gold medal for fencing at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal. He also won gold, silver and bronze team medals at world championship competitions throughout the 1970s.
Organizers of the Asian Games — which may adopt esports as a full-medal event in Hangzhou, China, in four years, according to the AP — noted that the introduction of esports into the competition was clouded by a deadly shooting that took place at a competitive “Madden” tournament hosted in a Florida shopping mall on Aug. 26.
Two people were killed after a gunman opened fire with a handgun; 11 others were injured. The gunman, David Katz, killed himself.
However, it was U.S. gun laws that were responsible for that incident, not esports itself, according to Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation.
“But I think this is a bigger issue of gun control and access to guns,” Fok told the AP in the wake of the shooting.
The esports industry, including competitions, has only grown in recent years, thanks in part to widely viewed competitions.
Esports revenues are expected to hit $905 million in 2018, an enormous increase from $665 million in 2017, according to a report published by Forbes.
Last summer’s Overwatch League Grand Finals, the largest esports event ever hosted at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, was a sold-out event, with attendees purchasing over 20,000 tickets over the course of two weeks.
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