We live in a changing world – there’s no doubt it.
Those running businesses use slogans like ‘adapt or die’ to showcase the need for moving with the times, and governing bodies in sport could also take a leaf out of that playbook to ensure their flagship events remain relevant and of interest.
Some have tried – the ECB introduced The Hundred specifically to attract a new audience to cricket, while others have failed: FIFA’s plans to trial a reduction in football games to 60 minutes being met with radio silence.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a job to do in ensuring that their quadrennial games remain relevant, with some arguing that disciplines such as archery, fencing and shooting are no longer popular enough to sustain their position at sport’s top table.
Moves have already been made to innovate at the Paris Games in 2024 with the introduction of four new disciplines: break dancing, skateboarding, speed climbing and surfing all designed to intrigue and entertain a younger demographic.
And in 2028, traditional Olympic events such as boxing and weightlifting are set to be replaced, with T20 cricket, squash and go-karting thought to be on the list of possible alternatives.
Then there’s non-sporting pursuits altogether. The IOC has arranged its Olympic Esports Series, bringing together the best computer game players from around the world to compete in a number of different disciplines on the small screen.
If that proves a success, would it be a shock if the IOC introduced esports at the main Olympic Games in a bid to attract a new audience to the quadrennial extravaganza?
What is the Olympic Esports Series?
Founded by the IOC, a number of sporting federations and games developers, the Olympic Esports Series will be exactly as it sounds: the best players of a diverse array of computer games will represent their countries in the hope of winning the medal.
Qualification rounds started in March 2023, and by the end of June the action will head to Singapore for the in-person finals of each discipline.
There are professional esports players in the field, who play for franchises paid for by big businesses like Red Bull, Coca-Cola, Audi and Airbus. Amateurs will also get a chance to poop the party via the qualification process.
The Olympic Esports Series will feature a number of disciplines played across ten different games:
- Archery (Tic Tac Bow)
- Baseball (WBSC eBaseball)
- Chess (Chess.com)
- Cycling (Zwift)
- Dancing (Just Dance)
- Motorsport (Grand Turismo)
- Sailing (Virtual Regatta)
- Shooting (Fortnite)
- Tennis (Tennis Clash)
- Taekwondo (Virtual Taekwondo
The IOC has been criticised for ignoring some of competitive esports’ biggest games – Dota 2, Counter-Strike and Overwatch are some of the flag-bearers for esports that have been overlooked.
The shooting events, recently added by the IOC, will feature a custom-built island in Fortnite designed specifically for the Olympics.
If you have an interest in any of the games mentioned above, now is as good a time as any to dust off your controllers and joypads and see if you can make the grade at an Olympic level….
What Sports Will Be Added to Future Olympic Games?
Whether esports is added to the main Olympic Games schedule in due course remains to be seen – the interest in and popularity of the Olympic Series will perhaps be a key factor in that.
The list of Olympic Games sports appears to be more fluid now than it has been ever before, and the fact that chiefs of the Los Angeles Games in 2028 are contemplating removing boxing and weightlifting from the calendar – two stalwarts of the event – reveals that there’s no fear in making controversial changes.
One sport that seems likely to join the Olympic roster is cricket. It is, according to the figures, the eighth most played sport on the planet, and it’s appeal is expanding to new areas beyond the traditional powerhouses – some 125 nations now play cricket, with 108 of them enjoying membership of the International Cricket Committee (ICC).
The fact that T20 games can be done and dusted within three hours – key in an era of lessening concentration spans – is also vital to the evolution of the Olympic Games.
There has been a motion to get either baseball, softball or both added to the Olympic itinerary in time for Los Angeles 2028 – befitting the spiritual home of the two sports. These are also amongst the top-10 most played sports on the planet, with 65 million people apparently enjoying one or t’other, so either looks to be a good addition to the rollcall.
Although esports is considered to be the fastest growing ‘sport’ on the planet, other disciplines are thriving too. MMA could be added to the Olympic schedule if organisers believe it can be combined with the existing martial arts, while paddleboarding, mountain biking and even pickleball – a sort of tennis-style game played on a smaller court with a plastic ball – are enjoying peaks in popularity.