Organizers’ thrilled as inaugural European Games Esports Championships begins
It’s been a long road to the first-ever European Games Esports Championships for Aurelia Ruetsch (France) – but now the competition is finally underway, the GEF Chair of the #EGE23 Coordination Commission feels like we are witnessing a huge international moment for esports.
“The countdown has been exciting, but now are here, the venue looks great, the space really works, I’ve met lots of delegations, and the Opening Ceremony was a real highlight,” said Ruetsch.
“It was an accomplishment to have the Head of State preside at the Opening Ceremony [the President of the Republic Poland]. He clearly thinks Katowice is a special place.
“It’s a huge boost to have the President attend. The President’s attendance demonstrates the credibility and convening power of the Global Esports Federation.
“Seeing the GEF and EOC brands together everywhere, the staging of GEFestival and GEFcon has been very encouraging and uplifting.
“When practical planning began, we anticipated half of the European countries would qualify for the #EGE23. We’ve exceeded the expectations with 28 nations.”
Vice Chair of the #EGE23 Coordination Commission, Ali Kiremitcioglu (Türkiye), added, “This is a big step, cementing the Global Esports Federation’s prestige and legitimacy in multisport events.
“Now, when people ask whether esports is a sport or a game – it is a sport, and more. Because we have the same things. The referees and athletes take the pledge, the organization is serious, and the structure is professional. What we are achieving is the legitimacy of esports in the world of sports, alongside athletics, martial arts, or football.”
Ruetsch agrees. “Esports and sports have been placed together, this is base camp now,” she said. “It’s great to be here, alongside the European Games.
“A strategic partnership was formed with a focus on youth engagement. The GEF is all about athlete competition, performance, and also social reach and impact. It’s a convergence of two worlds.”
Continuing that synergy is now vital. “It is so important to keep talking and sharing, because esports and sports share so much and so many similar challenges,” said Ruetsch. “This is a great opportunity for the two ecosystems to talk to each other, to challenge each other, to ask questions.”
Kiremitcioglu continues that the next step is getting more focus on the sport itself. “We need to offer the platforms to show the talent and skills of these athletes,” he said. “We can compare the skill level – the decision making, preparation, concentration – to traditional sport.
“Esports players are taking hundreds of decisions in a minute. We need to show that watching esports is just as attractive and compelling as traditional sports. We will move forward and keep promoting on the world stage.”
Change is happening at different paces in different countries. “As an example, in Sweden and Poland, we see esports recognized as a sport,” said Ruetsch. “Elsewhere, it is progressing more slowly, but surely.
“In places like Belgium, there are great esports educational initiatives, where children and parents are kept engaged, while the Polish Federation is big on promoting local economic partnerships.”
Ruetsch moderated an insightful panel at GEFcon on the first day of the #EGE23. “We talked about esports in Europe, which is a great subject, we gave people context about the region, with esports acknowledged as a key piece of the cultural creative economy.
“Coming out of the pandemic, esports has been a lifeline for many people, and we also discussed how players can get involved in leadership roles and be role models. This is a good way to bring about generational social change and the transformation that lies ahead.”