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Commonwealth Games shelves esports medal plans for Victoria 2026

Competitive gaming will not be part of event’s official programme in Australia.

13 October 2022 Ed Dixon

Getty Images

  • CGF had staged inaugural esports championship during Birmingham 2022
  • Organisation still working on inclusion pathway

Esports will not be a medal event at the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, after a U-turn from event organisers.

Competitive gaming featured at this year’s Games in Birmingham through a partnership between the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and Global Esports Federation (GEF).

Though the inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships was independent of the Games and its programme, with no official medals awarded, CGF president Dame Louise Martin had said she expected it to be included “going forward”.

However, Victoria 2026 organisers have said esports will not feature in four years’ time.

Specific reasons for the decision are scant but the BBC reports that doping may have been a factor and there were concerns arranging year-round drugs testing across the various gaming titles could prove problematic.

Older members of the Games’ nation groups, who are more inclined to tradition, were also reportedly resistant to esports’ introduction.

Despite the decision from Victoria 2026, the CGF and GEF said they were continuing to assess the pilot and potential future events.

“While they weren’t successful this time, the Commonwealth Games Federation and Global Esports Federation will keep working on an inclusion pathway for this growing sport,” said a 2026 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee spokeswoman.

SportsPro says…

The CGF’s esports efforts are part of an attempt to innovate and reimagine the Games and attract a younger audience. Nearly two thirds of the Commonwealth’s population are aged under 30 and more than half live in India, a country that has embraced mobile gaming.

Speaking to SportsPro in the runup to Birmingham 2022, CGF chief executive Katie Sadleir admitted not everyone would be onboard with the esports initiative, but made sure to highlight its potential for the organisation.

“Some people think it’s great, some people don’t,” she said. “But anyone who goes and experiences it, it changes your mind.

“I’m absolutely passionate about trying to do things that are innovative, that are new and that are keeping up with trend.”

It appears that Victoria 2026 organisers felt that making esports a medal event was a step too far on this occasion. There have been cases of players taking the prescription drug Adderall, which is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), to try and boost concentration and performance. Having comprehensive drug testing would have taken significant time and money.

That is not to say esports medals are permanently off the table. Hamilton in Canada, the favourite to host the 2030 Games, intends to make competitive gaming a full part of the programme, according to Sadleir.

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