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TECHNOLOGY

Online games looking to get a foot into the Olympics

The Olympic movement may be dedicated to celebrating world class athleticism but some say its growth can be helped by something that requires hardly any movement at all: gaming.

Online games looking to get a foot into the Olympics
Future eOlympians? Photo: Ed Jones/AFP.

At a first-of-its-kind summit in Lausanne on Saturday July 21st, eSports leaders will meet International Olympic Committee executives to explore how the enormous popularity of gaming can draw more young fans towards the Games. 

“The goal of the forum is not to look at options to integrate eSports into the Olympics,” IOC sports director Kit McConnell told AFP. 

The goal, he explained, is “to study synergies between the two worlds and explore opportunities.”

IOC president Thomas Bach — conscious that the Olympics are increasingly appealing to an older demographic — has made outreaches to the gaming world to connect with younger audiences. 

Last week, the IOC tweeted images of Bach gaming with Kai 'Deto' Wollin, world champion of Playstation's “FIFA.”

The image of the sternly-spoken former fencer enthusiastically clutching a console may look incongruous, but Bach has made clear that he thinks eSports can help the IOC.

During a trip to India in April, he did not rule out the prospect of eSport events eventually being fully integrated into the Olympics, but laid out some clear conditions. 

“The red line would be video games that involve killing, those that promote violence or any type of discrimination… “Those could not be recognised as members of the Olympic movement,” he said.

Olympic recognition, mistrust?

eSports specialist Nicolas Pidancet, who has organised recent editions of the Geneva Gaming Convention, has been pushing Switzerland's Olympic committee to grant membership status to the national eSports federation, after similar moves in Italy in Sweden. 

“The term 'sport' does not fit into one definition,” Pidancet told AFP. He said that formal recognition of eSports federations as members of the Olympic movement would bolster development programmes, lead to more structured competition and boost gaming's credibility among sports media.

Pidancet noted that there was anxiety within the eSport world about fostering closer ties to “classic” sports, notably over what impact major corporate partnerships would have on what was once a niche community.  But he described those concerns as out-dated because the days when eSports were dominated by a small group of devoted players were already “a thing of the past.

Massive global company's like Intel and China's Alibaba, which already support the IOC, have partnerships with eSports competitions, he said.  

Major obstacles

Integrating gaming into the Olympic system will face some clear challenges. “One of the first criteria (for IOC recognition) is that a sport must be governed by a single, recognised federation,” McConnell said.

That level of streamlined control within eSports seems a remote prospect for now, since the creators of individual games will inevitably want to retain some control over how their product is used and marketed in global competition. 

Ensuring gamers comply with doping restrictions is likely to be another thorny subject. But whatever hurdles exist, Pidancet insisted that “the future depends on more synergies,” calling Saturday's summit an “historic” opportunity to build bridges between the Olympic movement and the gaming world. 

READ MORE: Swiss-based IOC and Dutch brand in legal battle over rights to Olympic founder's name

SPORT

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

Hundreds of runners braved a lung-busting ascent into the Alps in Switzerland's Glacier 3000 Run on Saturday, albeit on a shortened course due to summer heatwaves melting the ice.

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

The event’s 14th edition was back without limitations after being cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 and run in 2021 with restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

The race is normally run over 26.2 kilometres but was contested on a slightly modified 25.2km course this year due to the glacier melting, with the last pass over its surface shortened.

Runners make their way under a ski lift  on the glacier run in Switzerland

Runners make their way under a ski lift during the last kilometres of the Glacier 3000 run. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

“The accelerated melting of the top layer of the glacier has created a camber and a soft layer which the runner sinks into,” said race director Oliver Hermann.

“Rather than intervening to flatten the track, we preferred to deviate the course.”

Runners on last stretch of Switzerland's glacier run

On the final stretch of this year’s shortened course. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

The finish line is 1,886 metres higher than the start, at nearly 3,000 metres up in the mountains by the Scex Rouge peak.

READ ALSO: Heatwaves close off classic Swiss and Italian Alpine hiking routes

The route begins in the jet-set ski resort town of Gstaad, at 1,050 metres above sea level.

It passes through forests, green mountain pastures before heading into rocky lunar-like landscapes and taking in the Tsanfleuron Glacier.

The course follows the Saane river upstream for 15 km before climbing up 1,800 metres over the remaining 10 km to the finish line — at an altitude of 2,936 metres.

A couple hold their hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets

A couple hold hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets, where the Glacier 3000 Run took place on August 6th. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

Some 311 men and 98 women completed the individual course, while 50 two-person teams also took part.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

The first man to finish was Kenyan competitor Geoffrey Ndungu in two hours and 17 minutes. He had finished in second place last year.

He was followed by compatriot Abraham Ebenyo Ekwam in 2:21 and then Switzerland’s Jonathan Schmid in 2:23.

Victoria Kreuzer was the first woman to finish, in 2:46, ahead of Nicole Schindler and Pascale Rebsamen — a Swiss clean sweep.

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