The IOC continues to focus on "virtual sports" rather than eSports

The Executive Council of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has released its 2020 + 5 Agenda, which details a list of recommendations for further efforts by the Organization to develop an ever-changing digital culture. Among the recommendations is the goal of encouraging the development of virtual sports and further interaction with the video game communities. It should be noted that in the past the IOC held summits and discussions with interested representatives of eSports, to explore the potential of e-sports included in the Olympic program, but has repeatedly refused the idea.

Instead, the committee has made it clear that it is focusing on “virtual sports,” or video game sports simulators, already accepted into its ecosystem. The recommendation highlights the distinction between virtual sports and e-sports. Rather than focusing on competitive disciplines (League of Legends, Call of Duty, etc.), the IOC will help develop virtual or simulated versions of famous sports.

While esports may never be included in the Olympics, the IOC recognizes the value of continuing to strengthen relationships with gaming communities. Its agenda details the importance of developing strategic partnerships with gaming communities at the regional level so that sports organizations can reach youth demographics outside of their immediate environment and engage these youth in sports while reaching new populations.

Sports sims like Madden and NBA 2K have lagged behind their esports counterparts in terms of audience, sponsorship and investment, but some initiatives, such as NHL gaming competitions, are finding a degree of success in attracting a new young audience. Rather than properly creating a "gaming Olympics", the IOC may instead seek to leverage the gaming ecosystem to help attract new fans to established sports with an aging audience.