On 21 July, the IOC and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) held the first official Esports Forum at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, bringing together more than 150 participants to discuss areas of cooperation between the gaming industry and the Olympic Movement.

The landmark event was attended by a number of key figures and athletes from the Olympic community, who joined top esports players and gaming industry representatives from around the world.

One of the key objectives was to establish a dialogue between stakeholders of the Olympic Movement and esports and gaming community, and through a series of panel debates, interviews and interactive demonstrations, athletes and esports players explored how each can benefit and learn from the other.

The Athlete Perspective
Of particular interest was ‘The Athlete Perspective’ roundtable discussion, which placed a selection of Olympians – Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra, US swimmer Anthony Ervin, Croatian Alpine skier Ana Jelušić Black and IOC Athletes’ Commission member Sarah Walker – alongside some of the world’s top gamers. The panel explored topics such as ‘What is an athlete?’ and compared their training routines as well as the challenges facing both traditional athletes and esports players.

There was a stimulating and insightful conversation on the extent of the common ground between the two groups. Dario ‘TLO’ Wünsch, a professional StarCraft II player, explained: “Just like Olympians do, it’s just about trying to excel at a skill in a competitive environment, be a role model to young people and present your competition in a positive light. Both can build bridges between different countries and people from all kinds of different places.”

Jelušić Black agreed: “Speaking from a traditional athlete perspective, it was interesting for me to realise just how many similarities we had with gamers. In the end, it’s dedicating your time and effort – and to some extent your wellbeing – to the pursuit of excellence. Whether you’re doing that in front of a screen or on the field of play, we are all wanting to be our best.”

Future collaboration
The Forum has established a platform for ongoing cooperation between the esports industries and the Olympic Movement, including further discussions around the viability of esports as an Olympic sport, as well as how participants from both communities can continue to learn and benefit from each other about topics such as live events, personal brand and time management.

Moving forward, the IOC and GAISF will establish an Esports Liaison Group to continue the conversation, members of which will be invited to present at the upcoming Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires in October.

Click here to watch the full Athlete Perspective roundtable discussion