IOC President Bans Violent eSports Events from Olympics
Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently said, “We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination. So-called killer games. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot, therefore, be accepted.”
After months of debate, Thomas Bach, the president of International Olympic Committee (IOC), announced his decision earlier month to no longer allow video games which contain “violence or discrimination” in potential Olympic eSports events. If the eSports’ major tournament circuits and event organizers do not abide by the new IOC rules, according to the Olympics’ top leader, they will be eliminated from Olympic consideration altogether.
During an eSports forum at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland this past July, the IOC debated whether violent games would be allowed in the Olympics. Thomas Bach originally said he was uncertain about limiting eSports which depict violence, since he once was an Olympic gold medalist in fencing, which uses swords.
The discussion of fencing brought to mind a variety of Olympic sports which have a violent aspect or violent origin, including boxing, wrestling, biathlon, archery, Taekwondo, and other martial arts events.
In announcing his latest position, Thomas Bach (pictured above on right with eSportler Jacob “JAKE” Lyon) explained in his mind the difference between simple combat and out right killing. Bach said, “Of course, every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people. But sport is the civilized expression about this. If you have eGames where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values.”
A Defense of “Killer Games”
When the IOC announced its ban on “killer games” in the eSports circuit, the reaction from the video game community was muted. Some were critical of Thomas Bach’s announcement, while others were defensive about the recent shooting at an eSports event. Still others wondered aloud whether eSports fans and players even wanted to be in the Olympics — though the exposure to the mainstream public would be invaluable for sport’s popularity.
Esports writers like Vlad Savov of The Verge said they would need more information of Thomas Bach’s definition of ‘violence’ to make an argument. Savov wrote, “Without Bach specifying which e-sports he classifies in his ‘killer games’ category, it’s hard to offer a counterargument. Though it’s still worth noting that the most popular multiplayer competitive games have highly stylized violence that’s usually inflicted by and to mythical creatures.”
“In Valve’s Dota 2, for example, you can be Zeus and smite an undead zombie with a skill called Thundergod’s Wrath. Or you can be a Crystal Maiden and summon a snowstorm around you that brings down a hail of ice shards upon your enemies. These acts of hostile manipulation of the elements can hardly be said to be encouraging people to punch each other in the face. Boxing, on the other hand, can.
“In any case, the established e-sports already have thriving professional leagues, and it’s far from obvious that many of their fans even care about inclusion in the Olympics. It would be a final mark of acknowledgement that these digital competitive endeavors are indeed sports, but for a majority of fans, it’s probably not necessary.”
Kenneth Fok Criticizes Violent eSports Ban
Asian Electronic Sports Federation President, Kenneth Fok, recently expressed his sympathy for those effected by the deadly shooting at a video games tournament in a Florida shopping mall which left three dead and several injured.
Kenneth Fok said he believed that esports was not to blame but faulted US gun laws. The AESF president said of the recent shooting at an eSports event, “But I think this is a bigger issue of gun control and access to guns.”
Indonesia 2032 Olympics?
Bach also recently discussed the future of the IOC saying that Indonesia’s chances of landing the 2032 Olympics were looking pretty good. As this year’s Asian Games came to a close, Indonesia President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo surprised the country with the announcement of their plans to bid.
Wildodo hopes for re-election this coming April and an Olympic bid is a way to stoke patriotism in the run-up to the election. Jokowi was open about his motivations, saying, “You see a successful delivery of the Asian Games. I think this is a very solid foundation for a good candidature (for Indonesia).”
The IOC has already announced the hosts for the next two Olympics. Paris will hold the 2024 Olympics and Los Angeles hold the 2028 competition. Though a decision for the 2032 Olympics will not be made until 2025, several countries, now including Indonesia, have shown interest such as India and Germany.
2016 Rio Olympics and 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Rio spent roughly $20 billion to organize and run its Olympics. Tokyo is expected to spend about the same as the prepare the city and run the games. Both Bach and 2020 Tokyo Olympic organizers mentioned their concerns regarding the high temperatures this summer in Japan. Though, he said it does not seem as uncomfortable as the previous summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Bach added, “We see the preparations are going on schedule, that you are not confronted with a country that is in crisis, as Brazil was before the games.”
Originally, Japanese lawmakers wanted to pass pro-casino legislation and have a Tokyo casino built in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics, but that was not realistic. An Integrated Resort Bill was passed in December 2016, while an IR Implementation Bill was passed in the spring of 2018. Licensing applications will be taken in the coming months, with decisions expected by 2019 and casino grand openings by 2023.
The decision is too late for an Esports competition at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but the French Olympics in 2024 still might be a possibility. If so, though, one has to wonder whether a video game competition without League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota2, or (by then) Fortnite would be considered legitimate by the video game fans of the world. The Olympics and the Esports community might never be a perfect match.