IOC President open to eSports, but violent games have ‘no place’

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he is open to having eSports included in the Olympics, but only for games that are also played in real life that could encourage the younger generation to play those sports.

While Bach sees the value in attracting a younger audience with eSports such as soccer and basketball, he said there is “no place” for violent games and that the IOC must “draw a clear line” to uphold the Olympic values.

“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.

“So if ever somebody is competing at playing football virtually or playing other sports virtually, this is of high interest. We hope that, then, these players are really delivering sports performance. If (fans) at the end would even play the sports in the real world, we would even be more happy.”

eSports will be included in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, and China also recognizes eSports as a legitimate form of competition. The next Olympics that could approve the inclusion of eSports would be the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

“These discussions are going on. It will still take some time because this industry is now shaping itself,” Bach said. “It’s a successful industry, but it is not yet really established in an organizational way.”

Two of the challenges in including eSports in the Olympics are the lack of industry regulations and the short lifecycles for some video games as companies continually shift in order to drive revenue.

“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,” Bach said.

Skateboarding, surfing, sports climbing, karate, and baseball/softball as a single entity were selected among 21 bidders for includes into the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. Bach said the criteria for selecting new sports includes whether they are widely practiced and whether they offer equal opportunities for men and women, and for developing countries.

“Attracting young sports is not an issue. It is more for us selecting the right ones,” Bach said.