The Olympic Movement has an Historic Opportunity to Re-Define and Extend World Sport.
But the commercial cart threatens to insert itself before the magnificent stallion of Olympism.
Society, technology and the Olympic Movement itself have created a potential for change that is like the electrical voltage stored in a powerful storm cloud.
A cloud like this can hold 100 million volts of electrical potential:
But unless there is a path to the ground, no current will flow, and the potential will be dissipated.
The convergence of our Five Forces has created tremendous potential for the relevant and effective transformation of Olympic sport:
But the Olympic Movement is in danger of putting the cart of “eSports” ambition for Olympic legitimacy before the horse of Olympic principles and social influence, and thereby losing the chance to make the connection between all of these forces and the young people of the world.
It is ironic that competitive eGaming lusts for the Olympic seal of approval.
On the one hand “eSports” often revels in its social marginality. Which is one reason that the Berlin Pirate Party so strongly advocates for its acceptance as a valid and legally accepted sport. They recently filed a motion to recognize “eSports” as a legitimate sport.
On the other hand, this avowedly marginal political party has fought for a higher percentage of German support, because – in a democracy – that is where the power lies.
Similarly, eGaming has been built on the backs – and wallets – of mostly male, socially marginal computer gamers, many of whom proudly call themselves “nerds.”
But the captains of the industries that eSports support want more. They want mainstream support… because that is where the money is.
Most hard core eGamers could care less about the Olympics, and many fear – correctly – that the Olympics would never support many of the games that so many hold so dear.
Like the “Battle Royale” phenomenon Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, a dystopian murder-fest whose winner is the last person standing in a blood-soaked battle to the death that makes The Hunger Games look like Goldilocks.
As we have said elsewhere, electronic soccer, basketball, and football are also fundamentally at odds with the Olympic rationale. In addition to being non-athletic, and incapable of persuading anyone to go play the real sports, they are undermined by the actual, physical sports that they emulate.
So, to what end does “eSports” pursue the Olympic Rings?
To further the fortunes of their corporate sponsors and publishers.
There is nothing commercially wrong with that. It is perfectly fine, for instance, that the Olympics allows their Rings to adorn advertisements for Hyundais and Big Macs, but it would not be so fine to add car racing and competitive eating to their Olympic Games roster. Both of which “sports” would take more physical effort than “eSports.”
So why is this even happening?
Why is the IOC even considering allowing commercial interests to distort the whole point of Olympism, which is to make the world better through the glory of athletic excellence?
Not just competition… athletic excellence.
Because the IOC seriously and laudably wants to engage and involve more young people in Olympism, and – as with those high-voltage thunder clouds before lightning strikes – they didn’t have a robust, values-compatible path to an eSports connection with those young people.
Now they do.
We can set things right, and engage that Olympic horse properly, to create and proliferate a sporting alternative that:
Engages young people, with electronics and some of the most powerful memes in world culture… some of the same ones that attract them to eGaming in the first place: competition with guns, swords, and bows and arrows.
Drives commerce, for eGaming and eSports businesses, as well as manufacturers of the same technology that has been pulling young people away from intense athleticism. Imagine the content they could build and the events they could mount for this new genre of sport.
Satisfies sports traditionalists, who, more than anything, want to get young people off their couches and up exercising… not in spite of their screens, but because of them.
In all of this, there would be no downside for today’s eGamers, whose games, bloody or not, would still be there for playing, just the same.
And the Olympic Movement would go forward.
Not by hanging onto the back of a cart that is headed off a non-athletic, violent cliff.
But by leading the charge into the future of sport.