Japan is bidding to host the first Esports Olympic Games in 2026. GETTY IMAGES

Organising an Esports event has been on the IOC's agenda for the past year, and the possibility of Japan hosting the event is gaining momentum after the option of hosting the Winter Olympics in Sapporo was ruled out following the withdrawal of the 2030 bid.

Esports have experienced exponential growth and remarkable development. This development has not gone unnoticed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or its president, Thomas Bach, who alluded to it during an IOC session last October. At that time, he already mentioned the importance of harnessing artificial intelligence. 

If anyone had any doubts about the impact of esports, they would have been dispelled after the first Olympic Esports Week held in Singapore in June 2023. Around 500,000 unique participants and more than six million views on live channels were recorded during the Olympic Esports Week in Singapore. There were 130 participants in 10 different events. 

These were some of the results of the first attempts to create Esports Games. These results reinforced the desire of Thomas Bach and IOC members to move forward with plans to organise such a competition, as announced in October 2023. That month, he outlined the key points of the roadmap that was on the IOC's agenda.

Singapore 2023 Olympic Week was instrumental in launching the Esports Games. GETTY IMAGES
Singapore 2023 Olympic Week was instrumental in launching the Esports Games. GETTY IMAGES

In this race to the light, Japan is the frontrunner to host the event, according to The Japan Times. Contacts between the IOC and Japanese officials could intensify in the first weeks of this new year, 2024. If the news is confirmed, 2024 could be the year that the Esports Games take off, as it would coincide with the unprecedented debut of the Olympic event, along with the already announced Esports World Cup to be hosted by Saudi Arabia.

This growing interest was evident in Thomas Bach's New Year's message, published last Thursday, in which the President clearly outlined the appeal of Esports and the opportunities that could open up from an Olympic perspective. In his message, he confirmed that the IOC's Esports Commission is studying the creation of the Olympic Esports Games. 

In subsequent statements, Bach has always stressed the importance and even the autonomy of this new form of sport. Therefore, the option that is gaining more and more weight is the one that suggests that it should not be included in a traditional Olympic edition and that it should have its own event. In this respect, Japan is ahead of all other possible candidates

Over three million people are regular gamers worldwide today. GETTY IMAGES
Over three million people are regular gamers worldwide today. GETTY IMAGES

Back in October 2023, in comments reported by Inside The Games, the IOC president pointed to the huge opportunities presented by the rise of esports and the need to seize them before it's too late. "There are three billion people worldwide playing e-sports and video games," he said. 

'It is estimated that over 500 million of them are specifically interested in esports, which includes virtual sports and sports simulations. More importantly for us, the majority of them are under the age of 34. That's why we took the strategic decision to get involved in e-sports. 

Thomas Bach concluded with words that hinted at the imminent organisation of the first Esports Games: "To seize these opportunities and manage the risks, we need a new mindset. We need the mindset of the young people. We need to trust them and empower them because the pace of change will be exponential."