The Olympic torch burns for gaming, says Ted Owen, founder of The Global Gaming League. Owen has already been in discussions with the Chinese government to make gaming a demonstration sport at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, according to CNN/Money's Chris Morris.
The idea of gaming in a competition as tradition-rich as the Olympics may seem hair-brained to some, but the argument can be made that a shot in the arm is just what the Olympics need. The international games have gotten stale in recent years and have used some nontraditional sports as life preservers. Beach Volleyball and Snowboarding have steadily gained popularity, while doping scandals have tarnished popular pastimes such as track & field, weightlifting, and swimming.
"You need to bring younger viewers back if you want to keep making money," Owen told Morris. "To do that, you need to embrace nontraditional sports. Video games deserve to be seen as a nontraditional sport."
Competitive gaming is still in its early years, but with the rise of gaming into the mainstream, its exposure has been growing exponentially. In addition to Owen's Global Gaming League, Major League Gaming, the World Cyber Games, and the Cyberathlete Professional League have grown in popularity, particularly in Asia.
Earlier this year, MLG signed a deal with the USA Network to air several one-hour episodes of competitive gaming, last year's total purse at the WCG was $2,500,000, and the Global Gaming League and America Online partnered up to bring competitive gaming content to the nation's largest Internet provider.
So while things may sound good so far for Olympic gaming, there's still one group that Owen has to convince: The International Olympic Committee. Not only is gaming not an officially recognized sport by the committee, but other big-name sports, such as baseball, have been cut from the Olympic curriculum.
So what if the Chinese government gives gaming the green light and the IOC doesn't? "We would do it anyway," said Owen. "We may not have the circles, but we'd do it right by the stadiums and would bask in the glow of the Olympic light."