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IOC President announces plans to create Olympic Esports Games at opening of 141st IOC Session in Mumbai

International Olympic Committee

14 Oct 2023 – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is exploring plans for the creation of Olympic Esports Games. The ground-breaking announcement was made by IOC President Thomas Bach during today’s Opening Ceremony of the 141st IOC Session taking place in Mumbai, India, in the presence of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

“Your presence here today, dear Prime Minister, is a testimony to [the] growing importance of Olympic sport in your wonderful country. This is why I am offering you a very warm welcome – thank you, Mr Prime Minister, for gracing us with your presence. India is an inspiring place to hold our IOC Session – a country that combines a splendid history and a dynamic present with a vigorous confidence in the future,” the IOC President said.

Thomas Bach also thanked IOC Member in India Mrs Nita Ambani for her warm welcome and generous hospitality, saying: “Already during our short time here, we could get a first impression of the excellent ways you, Nita, are promoting sport and athletes in India. What you have achieved in both business and sport is simply remarkable. Through your Reliance Foundation you are bringing the Olympic values to millions of students, giving them the opportunity to build their lives in and through sport. You are spreading the Olympic spirit across your vast country and in this way, you are making the world a better place through sport.”

Turning to esports, the IOC President noted that there are three billion people playing esports and gaming around the world. It is estimated that over 500 million of them are interested specifically in esports, which includes virtual sports and sport simulations. Thomas Bach said: “What is even more relevant to us: a majority of them are under the age of 34.”

The IOC President announced: “I have asked our new IOC Esports Commission to study the creation of Olympic Esports Games.”

The IOC has been engaging with esports since 2018 in a holistic way. “We chose an approach that would allow us to be active in the esports space while staying true to our values that have guided us for over a century. With respect to esports, our values are and remain the red line that we will not cross. Our crystal-clear position is gaining more and more respect also in the esports community. One of the leading publishers even adapted their popular game to conform fully with our Olympic values – so that players shot at targets, not at people,” the IOC President emphasised.

The first engagement of the IOC with the esports community was the organisation of the Esports Forum in 2018 in Lausanne, followed by the set-up of an Esports Liaison Group to have a platform to engage with all the esports stakeholders. In 2021, the IOC developed the Olympic Virtual Series. It was the IOC’s first pilot venture in esports.

President Bach explained: “Building on the learnings from this Olympic Virtual Series, we then launched the Olympic Esports Week in Singapore earlier this year. In Singapore, we saw proof that our holistic approach is working. We successfully brought together the Olympic and the esports communities.”

A highlight of the Olympic Esports Week was the thrilling live finals, created in collaboration with the International Sports Federations (IFs) and publishers. Over 130 players from across the globe came together to compete in the Olympic spirit on the global stage, in 10 mixed-gender category events. Players were cheered on by a full house of fans in Singapore, with all the action streamed online. Including the qualifiers, the Olympic Esports Series attracted over 500,000 unique participants. The Olympic Esports Series generated more than 6 million views of live action over all channels, with 75 per cent of views from people aged 13 until 34.

“This was a promising start. But it is just that: a start. It is like in any sport: after even a promising start, the real race still lies ahead,” Thomas Bach concluded.

In his speech he also addressed the topic of artificial intelligence (AI): “Our continued success depends on how we embrace the ever-accelerating development of digital technology and in particular AI. This makes our Olympic Agenda 2020 imperative, ‘change or be changed’, even more urgent.”

He called for a change of mindset in the Olympic Movement in order to seize this opportunity: “The younger generation has a completely new way of thinking. They are living digital lives right now. We must not ignore their thinking if we do not want to jeopardise our own future. We must empower them to guide us with their young mindset.”

The President said the IOC must be in the driver’s seat: “We have to devise a holistic analysis of the opportunities and risks of AI – and then take action immediately. I am happy to inform you that this work is already underway. If things go well, you may see some first consequences of this already in Paris.” The IOC has created an AI working group of experts to guide its efforts.

Noting that another key principle of the reforms of Olympic Agenda 2020 was that sport needs to go where the people are, the IOC President said: “This is true for both worlds – the real and the digital one. Today sport has to compete for the time and attention of young people. Therefore, we have to reach out to the youth where they are in this digital world. This is not just a technological imperative. This is also a demographic imperative.”

Continuing his opening speech, President Bach noted the growing excitement for the Olympic Games Paris 2024, the “Games of a New Era” and the first to be organised fully in line with Olympic Agenda 2020 and Olympic Agenda 2020+5 from start to finish.

Political leaders have also expressed their support for the Games. Most recently, at their Summit in India, the G20 Leaders in their Declaration said that they “look forward to the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024 as a symbol of peace, dialogue amongst nations and inclusivity, with participation of all.”

Concluding his opening presentation, the IOC President addressed Prime Minister Modi directly again, saying: “For this commitment, I would like to thank the host and chair of this G20 Summit, the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency Narendra Modi. We have a certain idea how difficult it is to reach a consensus in these divisive and confrontational times we are living in. Congratulations and thank you, Prime Minister Modi, for your leadership and your great support for the Olympic Games.”

The full speech delivered by IOC President Thomas Bach at the Opening Ceremony of the 141st IOC Session is available here.


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