By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) - The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) is "deep in talks" with organisers of the Paris 2024 Olympics about incorporating the discipline as a demonstration sport at the Games, the federation's acting Secretary General Leopold Chung has told Reuters.
Esports, the competitive side of electronic gaming, has quickly amassed an estimated 250 million players worldwide, more than several traditional Olympic sports federations combined in a growing market worth about a billion dollars a year.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) in November recognised esports as a sports activity, the first clear indication to the growing industry that it wants to link up.
Esports will be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games.
"It won't be possible to be an official discipline but to be a demonstration title within the Paris Olympics," Chung told Reuters by telephone from the IeSF headquarters in Busan, South Korea.
"The local Olympic organising committee and the city are supporting this movement, so this will be a stronger message towards the IOC that esports could be included as a demonstration title in 2024."
While esports is mainly driven by the games developers and publishers, the IeSF is the first attempt at creating a global body that could promote esports.
The IeSF currently has 46 members and hosts an annual esports World Championship involving three major gaming titles – Counter Strike, League of Legends and Tekken.
Global audiences for esports are expected to reach 380 million this year, according to research firm Newzoo, who have also estimated that the esports economy was expected to grow 38 percent year on year in 2018.
Esports is due to appear as a demonstration event at this year's Asian Games in Jakarta and will make its debut as a medal event at the multi-sport tournament four years later in Hangzhou, China.
Appearing at an Olympics would be a huge step for esports and Chung said Paris was the perfect platform.
"Paris would one day like to become an esports hub for Europe," said Chung.
"There are great engagement numbers, great fan numbers who live in France and especially in Paris, who would definitely want to come to an esports game."
The IOC is fully aware of esports' rapid growth and its popularity among young people, making it an attractive proposition to refresh its own ageing audience and make the Games relevant to a new generation.
IOC President Thomas Bach acknowledged the popularity of esports among young people this month but was wary of its often violent or discriminatory content.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford and Sudipto Gangulypeter.firstname.lastname@example.org; +822 3704 5698 ReutersMessaging: email@example.com)