OPINION: Three Reasons Why The Olympic Esports Forum was a Success

Last weekend, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) held their first official Esports Forum at the Olympic Museum. The initial announcements sparked a discussion around whether esports should be in the Olympics, when it will be there, and whether the Olympics need esports more than esports needs the Olympics. In its communication, the IOC made clear that the purpose of the forum is not to discuss these questions, but to initiate a dialogue between the Olympic sports and esports world.

After the forum, a lot of people reached out to me with the same question: “Was the esports forum successful?”

The answer? It depends on your expectations. As I wrote on LinkedIn recently, it does not matter if or when esports will be in the Olympics, or who needs whom more; it’s important we talk and get the conversation started.

With this in mind, the forum was successful for the following reasons:

People cared

Hands down, the IOC put together an a great lineup. Looking at the participants from the esports world alone, one could ask if these industry leaders have ever been together in one room before.

The line-up was complemented by key figures from the Olympic movement. From the president of the IOC Dr. Thomas Bach, to participants from the leadership team, different relevant federations and associations, to actual Olympians, the group was impressive. In his opening speech, Dr. Bach made clear that the Olympics and esports are competing for the most valuable resource: time. In this case, specifically the time of young people. Bach also insisted in mentioning the noticeable differences in dress code, which I consider a funny anecdote that I have come across several times at esports events and conferences.

In the end, the IOC called and people came. To me, the lineup shows that people do care about the dialogue, which is all that matters.

People shared knowledge

The event featured several mixed panels to discuss the differences and similarities between esports and sports worlds, shared values and opportunities, as well as risks. There are videos available on the official IOC Media YouTube channel, but if you can’t commit to watching all of them, I encourage you to watch the opening video that makes clear the intentions of forum.

Overall, the panel quality was very high, even if one could sense that some of them were, of course, political. People actually listened and had conversations afterwards. It was interesting to see how many similarities there were between athletes, complex structures of the ecosystem, and how participants thought about esports and the Olympics.

There will be a follow up

As Sara Elsam wrote in her coverage for TEO, “The IOC and the GAISF will now establish an Esports Liaison Group (ELG) to continue engagement between all three sets of major stakeholders. Members of the newly formed group will be invited to the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires, commencing later this year.”

Considering this, I am sure this was not the last esports forum organized by the IOC.

Rick Fox nailed it

I have to give props to Rick Fox for the way he moderated the event and guided people through both worlds. Given his background and excitement for esports, I find it hard to believe that the IOC could have found a better host. I am still impressed with his inspiring storytelling. You should definitely listen to his discussion with Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, President of the ANOC (Association of National Olympic Committees) to understand why esports is the future, how games educate children and how it connects generations:

I am looking forward to following a continued dialogue between both communities and would be honored if TEO can be an active part of the discussion. There is plenty of room for collaboration which allow us to build greater things together. I feel humbled and honored that I have been able to represent The Esports Observer at the event. It was a great experience and one could sense the excitement in the room. Esports has come a long way.