Dota 2: The International 10—are esports sports?

Tabatha

Tabatha
Content manager

Marketing video games by day, kilt hating by night. Tabatha enjoys short walks where coffee is the end destination.

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Dota 2’s biggest annual tournament was taken to a standstill and forced to change locations after Sweden’s government refused to classify esports as sports.

After arguably the biggest esports tournament declared Stockholm the location for its 2020 event, Swedish fans were ecstatic and ready to welcome the Dota 2 community to its capital city. The buzz would quickly die out as COVID-19 took out any hope of The International 10 Championships taking place on its scheduled dates—August 18 to 23, 2020. But fans knew the tournament would be back and bigger than ever after the virus subsided, right?

Though Europe is hardly in the clear from the virus, some events are able to take place. Notably, sporting events. According to Dota2.com, organizers were in constant contact with Stockholm’s two major tourism boards—Visit Stockholm and Stockholm Live. They had assured organizers of the event that TI10 would qualify for the same COVID exceptions as other sporting events in Stockholm. The exemption would permit any tournament taking place, despite COVID restrictions against large gatherings.

So, as you can imagine, this did not happen as planned. The Swedish Sports Federation voted not to accept esports.

But there was still hope. Organizers would consult the Swedish Esports Federation and Visit Stockholm for the next steps. The only way around this was to ask Sweden’s Minister of the Interior to classify the championship as an “elite sporting event.” According to their post, they were denied “immediately.” Brutal.

This classification means the event is subject to COVID restrictions and cannot occur; also, players and staff are incapable of obtaining visas required for the event. The lack of official recognition also means individual border agents would be making decisions about the entry of non-EU participants.

G-Loot is based in Sweden, so we can give you a little extra backstory. We very recently joined the “no government” club, which—for any Americans reading—isn’t a huge deal in Europe and is more common than you’d think. How are you doing, Belgium? The Netherlands? Yeah. As you can imagine, there’s quite a bit of political chaos, so an esports event has taken a bit of a backseat. TI10 organizers appealed the decision but to no avail.

So that brings us up to today. Sweden has missed out on some incredible tourism revenue and a chance to hype up its newly renamed Avicii arena. But let’s take a little dive into why. Are esports real games? Should we still be arguing this?

Are esports sports?

Many will argue esports are sports as esports require vast amounts of training, skillful teamwork, and flawless in-the-moment execution. Critics, such as John Skipper (former president of ESPN), argue esports are not sports but just "competitions." Which potentially makes a lot of sense. But we’d like to see him best some of the top esports players.

As you can imagine, officially, it depends. Let’s break down some significant voices in the debate.

Supporters:

  • Directly opposed to Sweden, the US made Canadian League of Legends player Danny “Shiphtur” Le the first esports player to be granted an American P-1A visa, the visa for “Internationally Recognized Athletes.” This was back in 2013!

  • China was a major early proponent for esports being a sport: recognizing esports as “real” sports way back in 2003 and as an official profession in 2019.

Detractors:

  • As many are aware, esports failed to take off in Japan due to the country’s anti-gambling laws. These prevent paid tournaments from taking place, and thus a lot of the incentive fades. Recently, there have been active efforts to change the rules and the mentality around competitive gaming in Japan, but this is yet to see any effect.

  • Until recently, Sweden has been seen as a pro-esports country. Many of your favorite players probably originate from Sweden, and the gaming scene here is fantastic. But we can’t overlook the recent decision against TI10; it seems Sweden is stuck in the past on this one, and we hope they can catch up if we’re to see the continued rise of the industry in Sweden.

Internationally, the International Olympic Committee has stated esports could be considered a sport. They cited the players’ need for preparation and training as their reasoning, saying it was comparable to traditional athletes. There was even a debate recently that looked hopeful for League of Legends as an esport. However, the IOC came out in 2019 against this notion but did mention they would consider promoting games based on traditional sports. So, Fifa fans, now’s your chance to get training for 2024!

The debate continues. Hopefully, we can reach a verdict, but it doesn’t look like that will be any time soon. The fact remains, this could have been a massive event for Stockholm, and Sweden seems to have dropped the ball on this one. We're hoping they won't make the same mistake for the upcoming CS:GO Major in November. What are your thoughts? Drop us a message on our social media @glootesports and let us know!

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