Esports could be included in Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games after inaugural pilot event in Birmingham

Athletes such as Emma McKeon, Georgia Godwin and Oliver Hoare caught the attention of Australians at the Commonwealth Games, and the likes of ‘Ryn’, ‘Giacchino’ and ‘Fern’ could one day be there too.

It’s not as fancy as it might sound. The final weekend of the Games in Birmingham saw the inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championship as a pilot to see if it could be part of the real Games.

There are currently 16 sports confirmed for Victoria 2026, with organizers looking to add another three or four to the final program by the end of September.

“We have signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the Global eSports Federation that does not stop after these Games,” said Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive Katie Sadleir.

“It’s a long-term commitment to learning, imparting knowledge.”

Ms Sadleir said the CGF would conduct an independent review after the Birmingham event to assess what the future of eSports at the Games might look like.

“We will evaluate all options and look at what is the best win for the partnership,” she said.

“It’s not just about whether or not we want eSports in the Games, it’s about whether or not eSports wants to be in the Games.”

Exorcism and dragon slaying the new sports frontier

Australia lost to Singapore in the Dota 2 Women’s bronze medal match.(Provided by: Global eSports Federation)

Watching raucous crowds gather at venues across Birmingham to cheer on athletes from Niue to Nigeria, in sports as diverse as weightlifting to rhythmic gymnastics, it feels a little strange to step into the eSports arena.

It’s being held at the Birmingham International Convention Center and there’s a small crowd gathered to watch Australia and Singapore square off in a women’s Dota 2 bronze medal match.

Two teams of five are placed on an impressive-looking stage, each player with their own computer and headset, while the multiplayer battle arena video game is displayed on a large screen above.

There’s even live commentary, albeit quite different from typical sporting events.

“Much of the damage to Australia comes from the exorcism,” says one commentator.

Cheers and cheers erupt as there is a flurry of activity on the big screen. It’s hard to say what’s going on, but maybe a dragon that kills?

It’s different, but that’s the point. CGF wants to reach a new, younger audience that is not traditionally involved in mainstream sports.

And the potential cash on offer doesn’t hurt either – the global eSports market is currently valued at around $2 billion, dominated by Asia and North America.

There are several different bodies that govern eSports. This event is supported by the Global eSports Federation (GEF).

The players are not involved in the politics behind the scenes, but are excited to be on the world stage, just like any athlete representing their country.

Five women wearing green and gold tracksuits stand arm in arm.
Five players represented Australia in the Women’s Dota 2 competition.(ABC Sport: Amanda Shalala)

Adelaide-based Lynley-Anne Dodd, aka Rin, is a member of the Australian women’s Dota 2 team.

The 29-year-old has been playing games for most of her life, and she said the growth of esports means a lot to people who aren’t interested in traditional sports.

“I wish I could go back and look at my younger self – 13, 14 – when I first started this game and say, ‘You can do it,’ because I never felt like there was opportunity,” she said.

“Many times I gave up on myself because there was no such opportunity.

“And I think now being able to be a role model for … women, teenagers, kids who really enjoy gaming, who want to be able to take it seriously, that’s the best gift of all.”

Women wear headphones while playing competitive eSports.
The Australian Women’s Dota 2 team is relishing the opportunity to compete in a major international tournament.(Provided by: Global eSports Federation)

Another member of the Australian team, Sydney-based Antonia “Giacchino” Cai, 28, also sees market value in established sports organizations involved in esports.

“Esports is going to get bigger over the years as technology improves and all the young people will know about it,” she said.

“A lot of money will be invested in this. We already have such tournaments [worth] millions of dollars.

“So it’s going to get bigger and bigger and the next step is to get it into the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics.”

Can eSports be a sport for everyone?

The women celebrate at the Commonwealth Esports Championships.
Esports are still dominated by men, although Asian women are leading the way for greater representation.(Provided by: Global eSports Federation)

The idea of ​​the Commonwealth Games is to be a friendly and inclusive Games, with a special focus on women and people with disabilities.

And eSports has its challenges when it comes to being a truly welcoming environment for women.

“There’s a perception that women aren’t as good, and for me I believe that’s because we don’t have that many women in the area,” said Kanyarath “Fern” Bupfaves of Sydney.

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