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How are new sports included in the Olympics (and does esports fit the mould)?

Olympic Medal
Friday, 06 March 2020 By Alexander Vantyghem

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games rapidly (we hope) approaching, debates about the Olympic programme have once again begun. A total of 33 Olympic sports and 22 Paralympic sports will be contested at the Tokyo 2020 Games.[1] This implies that many other sports and disciplines will not have the opportunity to shine during the highlight of this summer’s sporting calendar. Indeed, inclusion in the Olympic programme is seen as a fast-track to popularity with increased exposure, sponsor income and participation.

Accordingly, this article examines:

  • how sports qualify for Olympic inclusion;
  • the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) criteria for selecting new sports; and
  • where esports currently stand (an interesting case study as it splits opinion and exemplifies broader tensions around the governance and commerciality of new sports formats).

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Written by

Alexander Vantyghem

Alexander Vantyghem

Alexander is a sports lawyer at Atfield. He advises both domestic and international clients on all aspects of Belgian and international sports law, and is particularly experienced in proceedings before the FIFA decision-making bodies and the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.
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