Every new Olympics seems to edge closer and closer to including virtual competition alongside the corporeal, and the upcoming 2020 festivities in Tokyo are no different. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Intel are partnering to host the Intel World Open, a competition that will take place during the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Via The Esports Observer, Street Fighter 5 and Rocket League will headline the event, taking place in Tokyo from July 22 through 24 next year, leading into the July 24 kickoff of the 2020 Olympics.
Online qualifiers will be held and allow anyone competing a chance to represent their national team, with a live qualifier held in Katowice, Poland to determine each nation's representatives. Held in partnership with Psyonix, Epic Games, and Capcom, each tournament will award $250,000 in total prize earnings, for a total of $500,000.
The history of Olympic esports has been fraught, to say the least. Rio 2016 hosted a series of exhibition matches. Other major international competitions, like the 2022 Asian Games and 2019 Southeast Asian Games, are set to hold medal events for various esports.
The Olympics have been traditionally resistant to the idea, however. During the 7th Olympic Summit last December, the Summit determined it should not ignore the growth of esports but still seemed cautious, for reasons both sound and questionable. While it rightly identified the ever-evolving nature of esports due to its reliance on commercial properties, rather than a simple athletic concept like track and field or gymnastics, it also felt that "some egames are not compatible with the Olympic values and therefore cooperation with them is excluded."
It's understandable why the IOC might shy away from games like Counter-Strike or Rainbow Six Siege, whose portrayals of real-life armed conflict could be unsettling in an Olympic format. Both of the games selected make a great deal of sense; Street Fighter holds a strong cultural imprint, and Rocket League is basically already a sport, just with some cars and rocket-boosters bolted on for a little more fun.
Structurally, it's easier for more nations to field competitors in these games as well. A single Street Fighter contestant and only three for a Rocket League squad is an easier get than the six needed for Overwatch, and both have action that will read better for an audience unfamiliar with the respective games. Whether this signals a larger shift in Olympic sensibilities remains to be seen.
Honestly, as a spectator and fan, this seems to be the best of both worlds; the IOC promotes competitive games while letting ESL and Intel handle the nuts and bolts, and both games should provide for entertaining brackets, even if you shouldn't expect a stacked event like Evo. It might be better for esports that it's not playing headliner, given the rising anti-Olympic sentiment surrounding the 2020 games.