Olympics: Games must connect with gamers to keep Olympics relevant - Bach

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee has to connect with hundreds of millions of gamers worldwide if the Olympic body is to remain relevant with the younger generation, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) speaks as he opens the 135th Session of the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Bach also said games simulating sports could at some point in the future become a part of the Olympic programme.

“Whether they could one day be considered for the Olympic programme the answer is yes,” he told a news conference. “It depends when this day is coming.”

The IOC has been working on developing connections with both the industry and gamers but it has also rejected many of the electronic games as too violent and not in line with the IOC’s Olympic values.

It is desperate, however, to tap into this young market, with its traditional Olympic TV viewership ageing fast.

Bach earlier urged his members during the IOC session to look beyond the differences and find common ground that would allow federations to develop their own games suitable for a young Olympic audience and also develop regulations.

“We have to acknowledge that we are not an isolated part of society,” Bach said. “We are living in the middle of society and want to keep our relevance and keep promoting our Olympic values.

“We cannot ignore our involvement and we have to keep connected. We have to explore our opportunities.”

Bach’s comments came after a presentation by international cycling federation (UCI) president David Lappartient, who heads the esports and gaming liaison group set up by the IOC.

Lappartient said there were some 2.2 billion active gamers worldwide, with around 150 million involved in esports. He said 75% of 12-17 year-olds play some form of electronic games.

The UCI has already announced an esports cycling world championships for 2020 and Bach said that was a good example of how physical activity and electronic games could come together.

“We have defined very clearly what divides us from this industry and in particular with regard to the values,” Bach said. “We have said there is a red line with regard to the content of some of these games.

“We do not want to have anything to do with killer games or games promoting discrimination. We compete for the leisure time of the young generation. If we move on the platforms this young generation is moving we can also use this platform to promote our values.”

Some IOC members, however, urged caution, saying more understanding of the industry was necessary before taking steps to join up with it.

“We are a 19th century organisation trying to deal with a 21st century phenomenon,” said the longest serving IOC member, 77-year-old Dick Pound of Canada, who has been in the IOC since 1978.

“We can get taken to the cleaners in a major hurry if we are not careful with this.”

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Mitch Phillips and Christian Radnedge