Esports Included as Official Medal Event at 2022 Asian Games

Posted on: April 18, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: April 18, 2017, 12:40h.

E-sports will be an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, thanks to a new strategic partnership between the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and Alisports, which is owned by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

Esports to become part of Asian Games
Alibaba chief Zhang Dazhong’s company has invested millions in esports and has worked with the OCA to have competitive video gaming included in the Asian Games. (Image: IC)

This means alongside the usual procession of weightlifters, triathletes and ping-pong players will be a new breed of “cyber-athlete” furiously pounding their joy-pads as they vie for gold in League of Legends, Dota 2 and Fifa.       

The Asian games has long been fertile ground for experimenting with more unconventional events. Over the years, there have, for example, been medals for contests in body-building, bridge and board games.

There was also something called “dancesport,” as well as the popular southern Indian game of “kabaddi,” in which contestants attempt to run past their opponents while holding their breath and repeatedly chanting “kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi.” And yes, that last one is real, we promise.      

Beyond the Fringe

But the truth is, esports is no longer a fringe “sport” like some of the above. It is a spectator event that regularly fills arenas. Recent research revealed that esports is as popular a viewing habit among American male millennials as basketball or hockey.

Mainstream brands, from sports leagues, to casinos, to media companies, are eager to invest in esports in order to “reach the unreachable,” the elusive millennial generation, and buy themselves a stake in a multi-billion-dollar industry in the making. Last year esports generated $493 million in revenue, reaching a global audience of about 320 million people.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas sports books take bets on esports matches, as do most of the major regulated online bookmakers, which is more than can be said for “dancesport,” incidentally.   

A New Form of Sports

The OCA said the inclusion of competitive video gaming in the Games was reflection of the “rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth.”

OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said his organization was looking forward to “further collaboration with Alisports in regards to digital sports concepts along with sporting events.”

Alibaba has invested heavily in the esports space, plowing in $150 million last year through partnerships with the International Esports Federation and the World Electronic Sports Games.

“Together we will work on providing the sponsors of the Asian Games with more opportunities and maximizing the market value, so that the OCA enjoys optimum benefits and advantages,” said Alisports founder and chief executive Zhang Dazhong.