Process to site inaugural Olympic Esports Games in early stage with multiple parties in discussions

Domestic reports that Japan has advanced in the process to stage the Olympic Esports Games in 2026 are false according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Team Fuego look on during the Cycling on day two of the Olympic Esports Week on June 23, 2023 in Singapore. (Photo: IOC/ Lionel Ng)

Bidding for the inaugural Olympic Esports Games has just begun but domestic reports that Japan has advanced in the process to stage the event in 2026 are false according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC Executive Board met Thursday ahead of the opening of the 2024 Youth Olympic Winter Games being staged in Gangwon, South Korea, and at a following virtual press conference IOC communications director Mark Adams was dismissive of the news circulating in the Japanese media.

When asked for clarification Adams told “I think [Japan] expressed an interest but I don’t think it’s gone any further.”

“They are certainly not a preferred partner or anything like that so it’s very much in an early stage.”

Last month a Kyodo News report said the IOC had reached out to Japanese officials to escalate discussions in 2024 citing sources familiar with the matter.

But the race to host the first-ever Olympic Esports Games is on as Adams clarified “We’ve had discussions with a number of [National Olympic Committees]”.

Last October the IOC announced that it was developing plans to launch an Olympic Esports Games without offering further details.

The IOC hopes to engage with youth and a growing generation who have embraced esports that are globally accessible and available on devices they have in their pockets.

The Olympic Virtual Series held online in 2021 and the inaugural Olympic Esports Series in Singapore last June that staged 10 events featuring both digital and hybrid sport simulations were test runs aimed at developing the larger concept.

Esports already features alongside traditional sports at some regional and continental multi-sport games including the Asian Games, but the IOC has decided to hold its competitions separately. The IOC will strictly adhere to Olympic Values by avoiding violent Games and only including titles that are connected to existing international sport federations. That leaves events that are either sports simulations or virtual hybrid events such as Zwift cycling.

That has alienated Esports fans who are highly engaged with titles not on that list.

The existing International Esports Federation and the Global Esports Federation remain unrecognized by the IOC and will not be participating in the new event.

“We chose an approach that would allow us to be active in the esports space while staying true to our values that have guided us for over a century,” IOC president Thomas Bach said last year.

In September the IOC named the Esports Commission to be chaired by French IOC member David Lappartient who previously led the IOC’s Esports Liaison Group – the IOC’s first foray into the investigation of the potential of esports in 2018.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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