“Esports at the Olympics? We’re ready”

Will the future of sport be electronic? In the Olympic movement, opinions differ. But the IOC does not hide it: eSports cannot be ignored. And with him his authorities and his impressive community of practitioners.

Will the door to the Games soon be open to them? By what deadline? In what form? FrankGames asked one of the major players in the debate, the American Vlad Marinescu, re-elected at the end of last year for a new term as president of the International Electronic Sports Federation (IESF).

FrancsJeux: How do you see the short-term future of electronic sports in the Olympic movement?

Vlad Marinescu : Thomas Bach encouraged international federations to enter eSports, especially in its simulation version. This wish even appears in the IOC’s 2020+5 agenda. It was made concrete in 2021 by the first edition of the Olympic Virtual Series, where it was more about simulation than pure and hard electronic sport. It seems quite clear today that the integration of eSports, in one form or another, is part of the IOC’s plans. But it is up to him to decide how to do it and what direction to take. For our part, we naturally support this approach. But above all, we have a desire, as an international electronic sports federation, to promote the Olympic values ​​among our community and more broadly among young people around the world.

Is eSports entry into the Olympic program possible?

We are ready. Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, later… The IESF is ready to organize together with the IOC the presence of electronic sports at the Olympic Games. The day the IOC decides, we will be ready to establish a qualification process. I do not know where the IOC is in terms of the desire to move forward with this issue, but we are open to any kind of cooperation, to further increase viewership around the Olympic Games, but also to educate young people. about traditional sport, physical activity and health.

Will you be present in one way or another at the Paris 2024 Games?

On a personal level, I will be present via my favorite sport, judo, as I have worked for the International Federation (IJF) since 2007. Regarding electronic sports, nothing has been decided yet, the discussion is open. But let’s be honest, there is no indication today that within the community of electronic sports practitioners a majority is emerging in favor of participating in the Games. Most supporters know little about the Games and the Olympic rings. There is an entire education that must be done together, hand in hand, in the interest of the youth.

Doesn’t the road to the Olympic Games go through the intermediate stages of the Continental Games?

We are present at the Asian Games, where IESF has collaborated with the Association of Olympic Committees of Asia (OCA) on several occasions. We entered Incheon in 2014 where eSports was presented as a demonstration sport. Four years later, in Jakarta, an event dedicated to electronic sports was held within the framework of the Asian Games. We are taking a new step in the next edition, in China in 2023, where eSports will be fully integrated into the program, with medal events just like in all the other disciplines. But the process of integrating continental, European or Pan American games, for example, does not belong to us. It is the responsibility of our continental authorities. They have the experience, the network and the community to make it happen.

Could the Youth Olympic Games function as a laboratory before a possible inclusion in the Olympic programme?

Once again, the decision is not ours, it belongs to the IOC. I do not pretend to influence him one way or the other in what he will show at the youth games or in any other event. All I can say is that as an international federation we are ready to support any initiative, to work with the IOC and other stakeholders in the Olympic Movement.

Are you in regular contact with David Lappartient, the president of the International Cycling Union, who is responsible for the IOC overseeing the issue of electronic sports?

We worked with David Lappartient as part of the eSports Liaison Group formed at the initiative of the IOC. IESF was a member. We will continue to accompany him. Davis Lappartient has done a great job with the UCI to develop an electronic version of cycling with Zwift. But it turns out that an electronic version of an existing sport generally doesn’t attract a new audience. Nor does it encourage young people to play a sport. Fans of online, Zwift or connected cycling are the same ones who practice the discipline in its traditional form. To attract young people to sports, we need to work closely with the community and eSports players, to introduce young people to the values ​​of the sport and then motivate them to try using influencers in the field. At the last eSports World Championships, in December 2022 in Bali, we offered daily physical activity every morning – yoga, running, stretching… – to 600 athletes from more than 105 countries. They could thus start their day with some form of physical preparation.

You were re-elected at the end of the year as president of the IESF. What are the priorities for your new mandate?

First, the unity of the entire eSports community with a national federation in each country, a continental federation and an international body. This entity must be accompanied by close cooperation with game publishers. We have worked with them for 14 years, when we organized the first World Cup. We continue, because it is essential that all actors in the ecosystem move in the same direction. another priority: the athletes. I want to help them live healthier, play sports, eat better and find their place in society. Finally, we must increase exchanges, collaborations and joint initiatives with the international sports movement outside the sphere of eSports. The IOC, in the first place, but also NGOs, the UN… If we manage to achieve all these goals within the next three years, we will have taken the right direction to strengthen a young, dynamic and intelligent electronic sports community .

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