Gamers get a shot at 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou
Computer gaming will be a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) signed an agreement with Alisports, the sports wing of Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba. The deal, signed on Monday and believed to be worth multi-million dollars, was penned (लिखित) at the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, which is also the host city for the 2022 edition of the continental (महाद्वीपीय) event.
The OCA has also included e-sports as a demonstration event at next year’s Jakarta Asian Games apart from this September’s Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG). The video games that will feature in the Hangzhou Games have not been decided yet. At the AIMAG, though, the e-sports that will be demonstrated include FIFA 2017, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena and Real Time Attack.
In a statement, the OCA said they entered into a partnership with Alisports to ‘bring the Electronic Sports video game phenomenon to the official sports programme of the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.’ “E-Sports, which is enjoyed by millions of youngsters around Asia and the world, has already been added to the OCA’s 5th AIMAG in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, this September as a demonstration sport,” the statement added. “It will also feature in next year’s 18th Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, again as a demonstration sport. By the time of the 19th Asian Games in 2022, however, e-sports will become an official medal sport.”
The OCA, which calls this a ‘new form of sports participation’, is yet to draft the competition rules and dope testing procedures, which is mandatory as per the International Olympic Committee criteria. For the AIMAG, which will be held from September 17 to 27, a series of online qualification rounds across the three e-sports will be held in two parts: first at a national level followed by region-specific. The OCA divides Asia into six regions: West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, South East Asia, East Asia and Oceania (only for AIMAG). There will be eight qualifiers from each region (two per game) and four Turkmenistan players, making it a 52-player field.
An OCA official said the move is aimed at ‘re-energising’ the Asian Games and making it relevant to the youth. The host cities of the Games have also been battling financial crisis, with Incheon operating on a shoestring three years ago and Indonesia spending even less for next year’s edition. “It’s stagnated and it’s necessary to re-energise the sports programme. Various studies have shown that video gaming attracts a lot of viewers and it has the potential to lure sponsors, considering the primary target audience is the youth,” the official said.
The deal with Alisports, the OCA hopes, will provide financial stability to the 2022 edition. Incidentally, Hangzhou – considered to be China’s e-commerce capital – is also the home to Alisports, which is one of the biggest e-sports promoters.
E-sports have been lobbying to get into the Olympics for several years now and Alibaba has been at the centre of it. Last July, the company got into a deal with International e-Sport Federation and pledged to make it ‘even more legitimate’ as sport. Alibaba have committed $150 million to the development of e-sports to help its Olympic push. They then invested a further $14.5 million on the World Electronic Sports Games, which had a prize pool of $5.5 million.
According to the BBC, e-sports generated a revenue of $493 million in 2016 while attracting a global audience of 320 million. This year, the revenue is estimated to rise to $696 million, with China contributing 15 percent of it.
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