The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on March 1 the details of the Olympic Esports Series 2023, which features nine sports game titles. However, the games selected for the competition have stirred up some surprise since popular esports titles like League of Legends and Counter-Strike are omitted.
The Esports Series started its qualifying rounds on March 1 and concluded on March 15. The competition — open to amateur and professional players — will end with live finals in Singapore from June 23–25, 2023.
The selected games consist mainly of real-world sports and activities simulations, with only a few recognizable game titles like Gran Turismo and Just Dance.
Other games are Chess.com, Zwift, Virtual Regatta for sailing, Virtual Taekwondo, Tennis Clash, Konami’s WBSC eBaseball: Power Pros and mobile archery game Tic Tac Bow.
Reasons behind game selection
It is understood that the highly commercialized and financially-driven nature of popular esports leagues may contradict the values upheld by the Olympic movement.
However, the inclusion of chess and motorsports, typically not included in the Olympics and the absence of well-known sports games like FIFA raise burning questions from fans.
The IOC has provided a lengthy statement about the game selection for the event, confirming that the initiative’s main objective is to encourage the growth of virtual and simulated sports games.
The committee mentioned that violence was a factor that could disqualify most popular esports games from consideration. In addition, it expressed concern about the gender disparity among players and technical barriers to entry, suggesting games that require high-end PCs may not be suitable for inclusion.
“When considering these proposals, it is important to us that the featured games in the Olympic Esports Series align with the Olympic Values,” the IOC representative told Polygon.
“This includes participation inclusivity, such as technical barriers to entry, the gender split of player base and avoiding any personal violence, against the backdrop of the IOC’s mission which is to unite the world in peaceful competition.”
International Olympic Committee
The IOC explained that the current list of games is not final and it may decide to add new games later.
“We have had interesting and encouraging conversations with wider [international federations] and game publishers, and expect additional titles to be added to the Olympic Esports Series lineup in the coming weeks,” it said.
The IOC’s statements provide context for the inclusion of Just Dance. The game’s overall appeal and simplicity — which requires no advanced controller skills — likely made it an attractive option.
The selection of console and mobile games, such as Gran Turismo, also aligns with the IOC’s emphasis on accessibility and low technical barriers to entry. This may explain why iRacing was not chosen, despite its popularity among racing enthusiasts.
The IOC’s partnership with international sports federations also sheds light on the selection process. For instance, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) recommended Gran Turismo to represent motorsport, and the World Archery Federation suggested Tic Tac Bow.
The IOC seems to be redirecting its focus on finding games representing various sports rather than simply selecting the most well-known titles for this year’s Olympic Esport Series.