eSports will be an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in China, in the boldest step yet toward mainstream recognition of competitive gaming.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has announced a partnership with Alisports, the sports arm of Chinese online retail giant Alibaba, to introduce eSports as a demonstration sport at next year’s games in Indonesia, with full-fledged inclusion in the official sporting programme at the Hangzhou Games in 2022.
The OCA said the decision reflects “the rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth.”
The Asian Games, which are recognized by the IOC, are billed as the world’s second largest multi-sport event after the Olympics. Forty-five national delegations and about 10,000 athletes took part in the most recent Asiad three years ago in Incheon, South Korea.
The IESF is one of two organizations, along with the British government-backed International eGames Committee (IEGC), that submitted a request to the IOC last year to obtain information on how to gain inclusion for eSports in the Olympic programme. While that prospect remains distant, the incorporation of eSports to the Asian Games will offer a highly visible testing ground.
While initially popular as a spectator sport in Asia – more than 40,000 people attended the 2014 League of Legends World Championship finals in Seoul – competitive gaming now draws tens of millions of spectators to online platforms and real-world venues, including New York’s Madison Square Garden, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the MGM Grand Garden Arena on the Las Vegas Strip.