Renowned sports administrator Mario Cilenti is delighted to see his two worlds converge with esports ready to be a fully integrated part of a major multi-sport event for the first time.
The momentum building behind esports across the Americas is beginning to look unstoppable. That is the message from Mario Cilenti, who has spent more than a quarter of a century driving sports forward in the region, an agenda he now pursues alongside a key role inside the Global Esports Federation (GEF).
“It’s huge. It’s huge in the fact it’s integrated,” said Cilenti. He is the Director of Major Events for Panam Sports and played a big part in the push to include the first-ever Pan American Esports Championships under the umbrella of the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games.
“We wanted to bring the two worlds together, traditional sports and esports, which is the future. That is where the kids are, that is where the viewership is.”
The vote to include an Esports Championships, which was held at the Panam Sports’ General Assembly earlier this year, was passed unanimously and Cilenti, who serves on the GEF Board and is President of the GEF’s Pan American Esports Development Federation (PEDF), has been a busy man since.
“There’s a lot of curiosity,” Cilenti said laughing. “Everyone wants more information: what’s next? Do we need to qualify? What are the titles?
“After everything was approved, the NOCs (National Olympic Committees) that don’t yet have individual Member Federations said, ‘OK Mario, how can you help us? How can we get this organized? We have time but we need to run fast.’ The excitement is certainly there.”
Helping those NOCs is vital: “That is something we can do through the PEDF. A lot of these smaller NOCs, and some mid-size, don’t know where to start. This is a whole new world for them.”
“We can come in and say, ‘OK, these are the things you need to look at.’ We can help them with some generic statutes so they can get started and go through the membership process, which at GEF we take very seriously.
“That is how we can give back. It’s not only about growing membership – we have to support them, and keep in touch to see where we can help them. They (may) want to host events so we see where we can help them, either through mentorship, financial support, or by getting some keynote speakers.”
The assistance goes both ways, with GEF keen to ensure that Member Federations are doing all they can to connect and obtain recognition from the NOCs themselves.
“For us, that is very important,” Cilenti confirmed, before revealing that things are going well.
“It’s a lot of fun being able to grow this family from zero,” he added.
“It’s nice to pioneer in the Americas in this project. You have pockets (of advanced organized esports) but to be able to bring the community together in the Panamerican family is going to influence the future tremendously.”
On a personal note, Cilenti’s 25-year-old son is delighted to see his dad involved in a world he adores.
“I come from the other world (of traditional sports) and I am learning about gaming and esports,” Cilenti said smiling. “A few years back when they asked me if I wanted to be on the (GEF) Board, I did some research and that’s when it captured my interest. I realized this is something huge and as you dig further in, it’s endless possibilities - that’s a complete thrill.”
In just 12 months’ time, Cilenti and his son will get to watch esports make their debut as part of the Panam Games. The man who has seen sports of all kinds develop at pace across his continent in the past 25-plus years cannot wait.
“First of all, being able to have significant representation from the continent’s esports community, would certainly be a huge moment for us,” he said.
“Being able to see how these worlds can come together is going to be quite the moment next year. Exciting times ahead.”