E-sports sets sights on Olympics

January 30, 2015
Over 40,000 spectators attend the final match of the fourth League of Legends' World Championship at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Oct. 19, 2014. The Korea e-Sports Association (KeSpa), the country's e-sports governing body, was officially recognized as a second-tier sport by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) on Friday. (Courtesy of KeSpa)

Over 40,000 spectators attend the final match of the fourth League of Legends’ World Championship at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Oct. 19, 2014. The Korea e-Sports Association (KeSpa), the country’s e-sports governing body, was officially recognized as a second-tier sport by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) on Friday. (Courtesy of KeSpa)

By Baek Byung-yeul

Video games may become an Olympic event in the near future.

Korea’s competitive video gaming’s governing body, the Korea e-Sports Association (KeSpa), confirmed Friday that the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) has decided to label e-sports, floor-ball, baduk and the Korean martial art yongmoodo as second-tier sports.

They were recognized during a KOC board of directors meeting Jan. 27, and the KOC officially announced this Friday.

This is the first huge step for e-sports to become an Olympic category as the recognition will serve as a recommendation to the International Olympic Committee (ICO), which administers inclusion and exclusion of sports featured in the Olympics.

“This is one of the most inspiring moments in the history of the country’s e-sports,” Cho Man-soo, KeSpa’s secretary general said in a statement, Friday.

“We will put in every effort so that e-sports events are approved as first-tier sports by the KOC in the future. We are expressing our gratitude to every person in the business. Also, this would not have been possible without the support from every e-sports fan in Korea,” Cho added.

With the accreditation, KeSpa can take part in various kinds of events organized by the KOC.

It is also allowed to establish e-sports clubs in schools under an agreement with the education ministry.

The KOC board members also decided to name golf and baduk (Korean name for the board game “go”) as official sports for this year’s National Junior Sports Festival. Baduk will join the National Sports Festival, the annual domestic multisport competition, as an official event in 2016.

Considering that baduk took three years to become a first-tier sport in 2009 after being recognized as second-tier one in 2006, chances for e-sports to become the first-tier are high. The KOC recognized the Korea Amateur Baduk Association, a governing body of baduk here, as an affiliated organization in 2002.

Ever since the KeSPA was founded in 2000 — thanks to the boom of U.S.-based company Blizzard Entertainment’s online strategy games, including the StarCraft and Warcraft franchises in the late 1990s — the association has been lobbying to be recognized as an official sport. In 2009, KeSPA officially became an affiliate of the KOC.

After the country’s last e-sports league for StarCraft ended in 2012, another combat strategy game “League of Legends” (LOL) has become the most widely played e-sports game in the country.

Industry data shows that LOL, a product of U.S.-based Riot Games, which requires players to find and destroy an opponent’s base, has been ranked the most played at computer gaming lounges for 131 straight weeks since its official launch in December 2011.

KeSPA has been organizing the country’s LOL pro league since 2012, and the game’s fourth world championship was held in Seoul last October.

One Comment

  1. Dan

    January 30, 2015 at 1:14 PM

    The dialog should be initiated and sanctioning body created for the selected video games without further delays. It’s time!
    http://www.adfunders.com/campaign/video-games-belong-to-olympics

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