Imagine a day when gamers can go for gold

A few years ago one of the biggest events on this sport’s calendar attracted nearly 35 million viewers. Not bad, eh?

If it were to be an Olympic sport it would nestle between diving and equestrian. Alphabetically, that is.

Spiritually, sports fans, it lies somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea. Even closer to the former if you prefer your Olympics sport to be a slightly less contrived event than say, oh, another Rolling Stones world tour.

As it’s a non-Olympic year this may have slipped under your radar … and, that may not be accidental.

So, just how do you feel about esports? You might have a few years to answer that question but prepare for a potential “esport” entry into the five-ringed sports circus.

Yes, seriously. Paris 2024 Olympic organisers are “deep in talks” about including esports as a demonstration sport at their Games.

So still no idea what an “esport” is? Simply, it is the accepted name for electronic sports. Uh-huh – video games.

Traditionalists might well consider esports the antithesis of actual, real-life sport. But hey, these are times of Industrial Revolution-like change. Why should sport, even the Olympics, be any different?

For decades elite sports’ reliance on technology has grown exponentially. From the technical match officials, to cricket’s third umpire to the VAR so spectacularly featured at football’s recent World Cup – it’s everywhere. So why not front and centre?

Esports generated more than $700m in revenue in 2016, has a global audience of about 320 million. Twelve months earlier the League of Legends World Championships final attracted more than 35 million viewers.

It is not a coincidence the International Olympic Committee is interested. This is a sporting committee with as much commercial awareness as Gerry Harvey and Richard Branson combined.

Competitive video gaming will feature as a demonstration sport in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia before taking full medal status four years later. Nope, not a coincidence either. Two years ago, the IOC “permitted” a parallel esports competition to be run in Rio. Oddly enough it was called the eGames, but it was not an “official demonstration sport”.

So forget the expensive kit, the costly trips away, the physio appointments and all the rest of the traditional add-ons. That person in the bedroom who may frustrate you within an inch of their life, could well be building an Olympic career. Scary, huh?

Originally Published by The Katherine Times, continue reading here.

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