How far will the IOC go in seeking new audiences?

The popularity of esports is undeniable. And it was to be expected that Olympism would come closer to them. The question is to know what the next step will be.

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There will be nine competitions for the 2023 Esports Olympics.
There will be nine competitions for the 2023 Esports Olympics.

Since the incorporation of Beach Volley in Atlanta ‘96, the International Olympic Committee has remained alert and active to continue adding sports to its summer and winter programs that, exhibited in competitions such as the World Games and the X-Games, will refresh the image of the rings and, in turn, will expand audiences, mainly the youngest.

Sun, sand, music and lots of color in the stands, added to the dynamic logic of the game itself, quickly turned beachvolley pairs into a sport that was here to stay. Nor should we underestimate the inclusive virtue of the specialty: as in rugby 7 or 3x3 basketball, beach volleyball dramatically expands the number of countries that compete. In fact. There are not a few cases in which couples from countries that, in the indoor specialty, do not even compete in the games reach the podium. It had already happened with Switzerland, Georgia or Germany and in Tokyo 2021, of the first four, Norway (gold), Qatar (bronze) and Latvia (fourth) responded to that logic.

In other words. With the pairs, Olympism added an agile show, diversified the podiums and, with little consumption of beds in the villa, added dozens of flags that would never have dreamed of having a place in the main draw of the game of six.

What beach volleyball provided goes online, each in its own way, with the BMX race, the BMX freestyle, rugby 7, in basketball 3x3, trampoline gymnastics, climbing, surfing, skateboarding and, finally, the breaking, which will debut in Paris 2024 but which has already landed at the Youth Olympic Games during the successful Buenos Aires 2018. Similar situations have occurred in winter competitions. Nor are there a few traditional disciplines that either incorporated new specialties to the Olympic program —for example, mixed relays in athletics and swimming- or modified regulations to streamline the show. We will talk about it when we research a little bit about sports that, stagnant, begin to run the risk of being discontinued for the benefit of those who seek to wake up from the Olympic nap.

The breaking will make its official debut in Paris 2024 - in English
The breaking will make its official debut in Paris 2024 - in English

Regardless of taste, all these disciplines seem to have passed the entrance exam and, so much so, that some of them have been the first to sell out their tickets for the appointment in the French capital.

Perhaps encouraged by this search for a youthful air on the part of the leadership structures of Olympism, the enormous legion of e-Sports fans begin to dream of being the next step. Fantasy fueled by the announcement made by the IOC on November 22, 2022 and which is transcribed textually so that everyone can draw their conclusions.

“In partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Sport Singapore and the Singapore National Olympic Committee (SNOC), the Olympic Esports Week will showcase the best of virtual sports – hybrid physical and simulated sports – with the four-day festival, including exhibiting the latest technologies, panel discussions, education sessions and show matches.

The highlight of the week will be the first in-person live finals of the Olympic Esports Series, a global virtual and simulated sports competition created in collaboration with the International Federations (IFs) which builds on the successes of last year’s Olympic Virtual Series. The 2021 series attracted over 250,000 participants from across 100 countries to take part in competitions in virtual and simulated sports including baseball, motorsport, cycling, rowing and sailing.

Speaking about the announcement, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “The first Olympic Esports Week marks an important milestone in our ambition to support the growth of virtual sports within the Olympic Movement. We believe the exciting new format of our virtual sports competition, with live finals to be staged for the first time, is an opportunity to collaborate further with esports players and to create new opportunities for players and fans alike. It is a perfect opportunity to be partnering with Singapore, which has a history of supporting innovation in the Olympic Movement, hosting the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010, so we are looking forward to working together closely.”

There will be nine competitions for the 2023 Esports Olympics.
There will be nine competitions for the 2023 Esports Olympics.

As a fan of this entertainment - until not long ago it was a faithful resource to finish my working days - I absolutely do not disregard the playful virtues of these games and I am aware of the crowds that could gather around an alliance between e-Sports and the Olympians

However, I imagine that the least questionable path would be to create a specific competition space for virtual athletes and not one that involves these and conventional games at the same time and in the same place.

Beyond the essential search for new (and younger) audiences, something other than suggested would be painful news for a long list of “non-Olympic” sports and athletes who dream of one day enjoying the world of the rings.