Esports joins Pan Am Games, but medals won't count

SANTIAGO: Esports was welcomed - sort of - into the Pan American Games family on Wednesday, as gamers marched in their own opening ceremony and to their own anthem ahead of three days of competition that will not count towards the medal table.

Gamers from 25 countries are kitted out in national team uniforms, live in the athletes village, have official credentials and can take part in Sunday's closing ceremonies.

But any medals won will not be added to their country's official total as they were at the recent Asian Games where esports had full medal status and was one of the most popular events drawing huge enthusiastic crowds.

Like the Asian Games the Pan Am competition will be closely watched by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as Esports makes a push for a spot on the Olympic programme.

While esports is making its Pan Am Games debut, gamers have been part of many other multi-sport competitions, including the Commonwealth and the European Games.

"Those decisions are up to the IOC," said Paul Foster, the CEO of the Global Esports Federation (GEF), when asked about the Olympics. "But it must be exciting for traditional sports to also think about digital and how we can help bring our community towards sport and how we can bring sport towards esport as well."

With over three billion gamers globally, the majority of them young men and women, the IOC is eager to tap into that massive fan base, but there are numerous complications that must be resolved from doping to the type of titles.

One reason esports medals are not being counted at the Pan Am Games is that gamers are not subject to doping controls like every other athlete in Santiago.

The GEF is currently engaged in talks with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) but so far discussions have revolved around educating gamers to the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs.

While esports drew thousands to Hangzhou's Esports Centre at the Asian Games it is unlikely the Pan Ams will generate the same pull as gamers compete in two events, efootball and Dota 2, a multiplayer online battle arena in which two teams compete with the objective of destroying their opponent's main structure.

Authorities in Hangzhou ploughed $627 million into building a new esports venue while the Pan Am Games competition will be staged in a tent in a grassy corner of the Games fan zone.

But for the GEF, this is the first move into a region in which it has plans to invest in the development of several new events.

"The intention of the Pan Am esport championships is really a festival, music, fashion, fun, food, community all the other social aspects of the gaming culture," said Foster. "This is the first Pan Am esport championships and it is a very good first step."

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