League of Legends at the 2018 Asian Games
The Asian Games or Asiad are a multi-sport event similar to the worldwide Olympics, with which they are affiliated. Much like the Olympics, they feature a variety of different sports, very similar to the ones that are part of the Summer Olympics.
Highlights include Cricket, Judo, Table Tennis, Wrestling…and as of 2018, League of Legends. The Asiad take place every four years and this year’s events are taking place in Jakarta and Palemberg, both in Indonesia. The final and main event of the games will be happening between August 24th and September 1st this year, in Jakarta.
The games have been around since 1951, but this year things are a little different. LoL was chosen as an official demonstration sport and will feature the national teams that were selected to participate in the event. Demonstration sports are often used worldwide to showcase and promote existing sports that may not be officially recognised or allowed into organised competition yet.
In this case, LoL being a demonstration sport means that although it will be part of the event and will likely garner a lot of interest, the results won’t count towards the overall medal count of the winning countries. It is however, a big step forward for the recognition of eSports as actual sports.
An opportunity like this could potentially open many doors, some of which we’ll touch on later. At the very least, it’s an exciting time for the world of eSports and the dedicated teams of players will get to show off their skills in front of an audience of millions.
6 teams qualified to participate overall, and three of them have already been knocked-out over the course of a few rounds. Over 45 countries compete in the games in general (in other disciplines), making the Asian Games one of the biggest multi-sports event in the world. Though often not well-covered by Western Media, these games are a big deal and may well set the tone for the future of eSports as an official competitive sport.
The remaining three are South Korea, Chinese Taipei and China. Hong Kong, Japan and Macau have already been eliminated. Among the three remaining teams, South Korea is favoured to win. This is unsurprising as the game is practically a national sport in the country. The team sent to the games was selected very carefully and assembled from multiple different LCK teams. The six players selected are Kim ‘Kiin’ Gi-in from the Afreeca Freecs, Go ‘Score’ Dong-bin from KT Rolster, Han ‘Peanut’ Wang-ho from Kingzone DragonX, Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok from SK Telekom T1, Park ‘Ruler’ Jae-hyuk, Jo ‘CoreJJ’ Yong-in and coach Choi ‘Edgar’ Woo-beom all from Gen.G Esports.
This list reads a little like a best-of list, or perhaps an all-star event, and that was the intention of the strategy committee that selected these players. Given that they easily managed to make their way to the final event, it seems like this was a good decision.
China’s team is made up of Yan ‘LetMe’ Jun-Ze, Lio ‘Mlxg’ Shi’Yu, Su ‘xiya’ Han Wei, Jian ‘Uzi’ Zi-Hao, Tian ‘Meiko’ Ye, Shi ‘Ming’ Sen-Ming and coach Ji ‘Aaron’ Xing. There was originally some concern whether the athletes would be allowed to attend the games at all, as the Chinese government originally refused to acknowledge eSports. Despite this lack of acknowledgement, the players were eventually allowed to attend and managed to make their way into the final event.
The Taipei team is made up of players from two teams – the Flash Wolves and G-Rex. The players selected are Hsieh ‘PK’ Yu-Ting, Wang ‘baybay’ You-Chun, Huang ‘Maple’ Yi-Tang, Lu ‘Betty’ Yu-Hung, Hu ‘SwordArt’ Shuo-Chieh, Chen ‘Morning’ Kuan-Ting and coach Chen ‘WarHorse’ Ju-Chih.
In addition to these League of Legends teams, there will be other eSports teams competing – as it happens, LoL isn’t the only eSports game that will debut at the Asian Games. Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, Pro Evolution Soccer and mobile games Clash Royale and Arena of Valor will also make appearances.
Riot Games were quite happy that their game is being included in the games. “We’re honoured that League of Legends was selected for the Asian Games,” said the co-head of esports at Riot, Jarred Kennedy. “Representing one’s country at the Olympics is a dream for athletes around the world, and with this step, that dream is one step closer to reality for the best in our sport. We admire and respect the values of the Olympic movement and look forward to supporting the Olympic Council of Asia in making this competition a success.”
While especially Starcraft 2 is a big deal in Asia, it’s League of Legends that is expected to gather the most interest from fans world-wide. All of the competing eSports games have large fan-bases of course, but with League of Legends being considered one of if not the biggest eSports games in the entire world, it’s no surprise the others likely won’t quite be able to keep up.
With this first for eSports at an Olympic event, it’s no surprise that fans and players are hoping to see eSports included in the main Summer Olympics as well. While this is extremely unlikely to happen in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 2024 Paris Olympics are a very real possibility. Despite Japan’s assurances that they would love to include eSports in the line-up and even offering to make changes to their legislation to make this easier, it seems unlikely at this point for eSports to be included.
The fact that they are in discussion at all, however, is a major step in the right direction – just a few short years ago, even this much would have been completely unimaginable. In fact, even now many are arguing against the inclusion of eSports in the Olympics, or any sporting event. Hopefully, the huge interest LoL (and other demonstration sports) will generate, will prove to even the most sceptical of critics that eSports very much do deserve a place at the Olympics and other major sporting events.