Paris open to es­ports on 2024 Games pro­gram

Pos­si­bil­ity gam­ing could be con­sid­ered for medals

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - ROB HAR­RIS

LON­DON — Video gamers could be com­pet­ing for Olympic medals by 2024.

Tony Es­tanguet, co-pres­i­dent of the Paris Olympic bid com­mit­tee, told The Associated Press he will hold talks with es­ports rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee about the chance of gam­ing join­ing the ’24 pro­gram.

The ex­plo­sion in pop­u­lar­ity of es­ports events, draw­ing large crowds of young­sters to are­nas for tour­na­ments, has al­ready seen gam­ing em­braced by the Asian Games.

It will be­come a full sport by the ’22 edi­tion, although de­tails of which games will be con­tested are yet to be pro­vided.

Paris will be con­firmed as ’24 hosts at an In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee gath­er­ing in Lima, Peru next month af­ter its only com­peti­tor, Los An­ge­les, agreed to take the ’28 Games.

Es­tanguet be­lieves that a con­test of dig­i­tal prow­ess should be con­sid­ered a le­git­i­mate sport if the Olympics is to main­tain its rel­e­vance for new gen­er­a­tions of fans.

“We have to look at it be­cause we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not about Olympics,’” Es­tanguet said in an in­ter­view with the AP in Lon­don. “The youth, yes they are in­ter­ested in es­port and this kind of thing. Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges.

“I don’t want to say ‘no’ from the be­gin­ning. I think it’s in­ter­est­ing to in­ter­act with the IOC, with them, the es­ports fam­ily, to bet­ter un­der­stand what the process is and why it is such a suc­cess.”

The ’24 pro­gram will start to be shaped in ’19 with a fi­nal de­ci­sion on the ad­di­tion of sports in Paris to be taken by the IOC af­ter the ’20 Tokyo Olympics.

“There is some time to look at it, to in­ter­act, to en­gage,” Es­tanguet said. “We will spend some time af­ter (the IOC meet­ing in Septem­ber) Lima to en­gage with new peo­ple and stake­hold­ers. The IOC will have the last ... say, if they want es­ports on the pro­gram. Let’s dis­cuss among our­selves.”

Paris is gain­ing the ’24 host­ing rights without the usual dra­matic vote. The IOC de­cided to award two Sum­mer Games at the same time and Los An­ge­les later aban­doned its bid for ’24 dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the IOC and Paris.

“We feel that we are the win­ner be­cause we have what we wanted,” said Es­tanguet, a ca­noe slalom triple-Olympic cham­pion.

The de­pleted field vy­ing for the ’24 Olympics was the re­sult of with­drawals by Budapest, Ham­burg and Rome over a lack of lo­cal sup­port, amid con­cerns about the es­ca­lat­ing costs of host­ing the sport­ing ex­trav­a­ganza.

“I have to ad­mit over the last years it was not easy to carry a bid,” Es­tanguet said, “es­pe­cially be­cause in Europe you saw what hap­pened to other bid cities.”

Es­tanguet knows that de­liv­er­ing the Paris Games on bud­get — as promised — is es­sen­tial to en­sur­ing that stag­ing the Olympics be­comes a more at­trac­tive propo­si­tion again.

“I don’t want to dis­ap­point ... I feel there is an ur­gency to de­liver prom­ises,” Es­tanguet said. “We feel this re­spon­si­bil­ity since the be­gin­ning when we launched this bid. We knew we had to chal­lenge this rep­u­ta­tion that the bud­get of the games can ex­plode. That’s why we built the project based on 95 per cent of ex­ist­ing venues to make sure we will be con­fi­dent to be able to de­liver our prom­ises.”

The es­ti­mated cost of host­ing the Tokyo Games has al­ready dou­bled to ¥1.4 tril­lion ($12.7 bil­lion US) from the ¥730 bil­lion ($6.6 bil­lion US) that was pro­posed when the Ja­panese cap­i­tal won the bid in 2013.

The in­fra­struc­ture bud­get in Paris has been es­ti­mated at €3 bil­lion ($3.5 bil­lion US), with op­er­a­tional costs of €3.2 bil­lion ($3.8 bil­lion US). But Paris still needs to build an aquat­ics cen­tre close to the Stade de France, a me­dia cen­tre and the Olympic Vil­lage.

LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES FILE PHOTO

The ex­plo­sion in pop­u­lar­ity of es­ports events, draw­ing large crowds to are­nas, has the IOC’s in­ter­est

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