Olympic Council of Asia honorary life vice- president Wei Jizhong believes it is only a matter of time before eSports are fully embraced by the Olympic family and all other more traditional multi-sport events.

“Change is happening,” said Wei, speaking on the sidelines of this week’s World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) Grand Final.

The OCA tested the waters with eSports at last year’s 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, and the experiment was apparently a resounding success with close to 100 million views of the action recorded across live streams and social media, according to Wei.

Up next eSports will be among the demonstrations sports at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August this year before making its debut as a medal sport at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games.  

“The decision to include eSport was very easy,” said Wei. “We looked at the participation and how many people were competing for pleasure. Now we are working to learn, and to regulate. Step by step.”

The Olympics are on the horizon, Wei said, but certain matters needed to be addressed first, including the formation of an internationally recognised and accepted ruling body for eSports, and decisions on exactly which eSports are chosen.

Preference, he said, would be go to games that are based on traditional sports such as football and basketball – which would lead to eSport events more readily accepted by the sports already featured at the Olympics.

“If eSports are successful at the Asian Games of course the IOC {International Olympic Council} will notice and already I hear that eSports are being considered as an exhibition sport at the Paris Olympics in 2024,” said Wei.

The six-day WESG – being held on the southern tropical Chinese island of Hainan – is helping charting the course towards that acceptance for eSports.

WESG organisers Alisports – the sports unit of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd – have included Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PES2018) as an exhibition event here.Alipsorts are the OCA’s official eSport partners for the next two editions of the Asian Games, and are an official sponsor of the IOC.

Globally eSports have an estimated audience of around 380 million people, while it’s expected the international eSport economy will top US$ 905 million in 2018, a year-on-year growth of 38 per cent.

China has been working its way to the forefront of the ESports’ spread, and its push for more mainstream acceptance, and there are an estimated 560 million people who count themselves as regular online gamers across the nation.

Wei said the growth of eSports across China had helped push its acceptance into the Asian Games, and showed how modern events were quickly “combining old views and new views” of what constitutes a sport.

“What you might call mind games are as important now as physical games,” said Wei. “I’m in favour of including mind games – before we have included chess. But the problem with chess was proportion. How many people play chess? Not that many. But there is no problem with that when it comes to eSport. Everyone plays these days.” – AFP-SERVICES

- Advertisement -