Why this varsity gaming team calls inaugural Olympic Esports Series ‘a slap in the face’

When videogame players think of esports, titles such as League of Legends, Valorant and Rocket League may come to mind.

But in a move which Saints Gaming — St. Clair College’s varsity esports team — calls “a slap in the face,” none of those titles have been selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be part of the inaugural Olympic Esports Series.

Instead, the IOC has selected a series of games which are virtual versions of existing Olympic sports. Many of them can be downloaded on mobile devices and are not highly regarded in the esports community.

Harshil Patel, a coach and player for Saints Gaming’s Apex Legends Team, said his excitement of seeing esports take the Olympic stage quickly turned to disappointment upon seeing the list of games selected by the IOC.

“I feel like a lot of big organizations that just want to explore into esports because they’re seeing the money rolling. They don’t necessarily know what it is,” said Patel.

“They just think it’s an opportunity to get something new going. They want to just dip their toes in without actually knowing how deep the water is.”

According to the IOC, the initially-confirmed featured games across nine sports are:

  • Archery (World Archery Federation, Tic Tac Bow)
  • Baseball (World Baseball Softball Confederation, WBSC eBASEBALL: POWER PROS)
  • Chess (International Chess Federation, Chess.com)
  • Cycling (UCI, Zwift)
  • Dance (World DanceSport Federation, JustDance)
  • Motor sport (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, Gran Turismo)
  • Sailing (World Sailing, Virtual Regatta)
  • Taekwondo (World Taekwondo, Virtual Taekwondo)
  • Tennis (International Tennis Federation, Tennis Clash)

Qualification rounds for the 2023 Olympic Esports Series are already underway with the three-day finals expected to take place in Singapore, starting on June 22.

According to St. Clair College Esports Director Shaun Byrne, there are about 100 players under Saints Gaming and only four of them play any of the IOC-selected titles.

“Eight titles that they’ve selected are not games that any of our players have ever touched before and those games are just simply not considered esports,” said Byrne, adding the IOC’s list of games is a “a slap in the face” to esports.

“Most of them are app games filled with micro transactions. It looks like they are completely out of touch with reality in terms of what esports is and what it can be.”

For Byrne, he has a “small hope” that the IOC will reconsider the games it selects to be featured on the Olympic stage in the future. However, based on the current effort, he doubts that will happen.

“We’ve been working on growing esports for 20 years, some of us 30 years, and for them the IOC to finally commit to doing something with esports and then for these to be the games that they’ve selected, it’s just really disappointing.”

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