“Esports at the Olympics? We’re ready”

Will the future of sport be electronic? In the Olympic movement, opinions differ. But the IOC makes no secret of it: eSports cannot be ignored. And, with him, his authorities and his wonderful community of practitioners.

Will the door to the Games be opened to them soon? By what deadline? In what form? FrankGames asked one of the main players in the debate, the American Vlad Marinescu, who was 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, particularly in its simulation version. This desire appears in the IOC’s 2020+5 agenda. This was made concrete in 2021 by the first edition of the Olympic Virtual Series, where it is more about simulation than pure and hard electronic sports. It seems clear now that the inclusion 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 which direction to take. For our part, of course we support this approach. But above all, we have a desire, as an international electronic sports federation, to promote the Olympic values ​​in our community, and more broadly among young people around the world.

Is the entry of eSport into the Olympic program possible?

We are ready. Tomorrow, the day after, later… The IESF is ready to organize together with the IOC the presence of electronic sports in the Olympic Games. The day the IOC decides, we will be ready to set up the qualification process. I don’t know where the IOC is in terms of its desire to move forward on this issue, but we are open to any form of collaboration, to further increase the number of viewers around the Olympic Games, but also to educate young people. in traditional sports, physical activity and health.

Will you be involved, one way or another, in the Paris 2024 Games?

On a personal level, I am present through my favorite sport, judo, because I have worked since 2007 for the international federation (IJF). Regarding electronic sports, nothing has been decided yet, the discussion is open. But we must be honest, nothing indicates now that the majority appears, within the community of electronic sports practitioners, in favor of participating in the Games. Most followers know very little about the Games and the Olympic ring. There is a whole 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 were present at the Asian Games, where IESF collaborated on several occasions with the Association of Olympic Committees of Asia (OCA). 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 organized within the framework of the Asian Games. We will take a new step in the next edition, in China in 2023, where eSport will be fully integrated into the program, with medal events like in all other disciplines. But the integration process of continental, European or Pan-American games, for example, is not ours. This is the responsibility of our continental authorities. They have the experience, network and community to do it.

Will the Youth Olympic Games serve as a laboratory, before possible entry into the Olympic program?

Again, the decision is not ours, it belongs to the IOC. I do not pretend to influence him one way or the other on what he wants to show at the Youth Games or any other event. All I can say is, as an international federation, we are ready to support any initiative, to work with the IOC and other stakeholders of the Olympic movement.

Are you in regular contact with David Lappartient, the president of the International Cycling Union, who is in charge of the IOC in handling the question of electronic sports?

We worked with David Lappartient as part of the eSport Liaison Group formed at the initiative of the IOC. IESF is a member. We will continue to accompany him. Davis Lappartient has done an amazing job at the UCI to develop, with Zwift, an electronic version of cycling. But it turns out that an electronic version of an existing sport generally doesn’t attract a new audience. Young people are also not encouraged to practice a sport. Fans of online, Zwift or connected cycling are those who both practice the discipline in its traditional form. To attract young people to the sport, we must work with the community and eSport players, to familiarize the young people with the values ​​of the sport, then encourage them to try, using influencers in the field. At the last electronic sports world championships, in December 2022 in Bali, we offer daily physical activity every morning – yoga, running, stretching… – to 600 athletes from over 105 countries. So they start their day with some form of physical preparation.

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

First, the unity of the entire eSports community, with a national federation in each country, a continental confederation and an international body. This unity must be accompanied by close cooperation with game publishers. We have been working with them for 14 years, when we organized the first world championship. We will continue, because it is important that all players 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 in the global sports movement outside the scope of eSports. The IOC, in priority, but also the NGOs, the United Nations… If we can achieve all these goals in the next three years, we will take the right direction to strengthen a young, dynamic and smart electronic community sports.

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