Sweden Abruptly Decides Esports Are Not Sports When It Comes To COVID-19 Exemptions

from the going-viral dept

We’ve marked an awful lot of progress markers when it comes to the emergence of esports into the popular lexicon throughout the world. If there were a general theme to those posts, it certainly would be the progress esports has made in being considered a real, established sport, and not just a hobby that borrows that word with no validity. Progress, as I enjoy saying, is not linear, however.

And now it appears that how at least one nation is dealing with the world’s early emergence from COVID-19 protocols, is exposing one minor step back on all the progress. Sweden was set to host Valve’s DOTA 2 big championship contest, The International, until very recently when the country’s sports federation suddenly decided that esports aren’t actual sports when it comes to COVID-19 travel exemptions. By way of background, this tournament was originally supposed to be held in Sweden in 2020, but it got pushed to 2021 due to the pandemic. As Valve planned for the event, it worked with the Swedish authorities to make sure everything was a go.

As Valve outline in a blog post, Sweden still has a number of stringent restrictions in place regarding public gatherings, which would otherwise threaten the ability to hold a big in-person tournament like The International, even though elite sporting events have been excluded from these.

Valve claims that as planning continued local authorities “continued to reassure us in our regular and constant communications with them that The International – Dota 2 Championships qualified for the same exemptions other elite sporting events there received.”

The exemption language specifically states that travel exemptions would apply to, among other categories,:

-people travelling for the purpose of performing highly skilled work, if their contribution is necessary from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed remotely, including people who will take part in or perform necessary tasks at elite sports competitions

That sure does sound like The International would fit the categorization. Due to that and to the communication with the Swedish government, Valve planned to host the tourney in Stockholm. Then, suddenly, The Swedish Sports Federation voted to not allow any esports organizations as members. As a result, the COVID-19 exemptions no longer would apply to anyone traveling to the country for the tournament. Soccer and other sporting matches that include large crowds and international players are all moving forward; esports tourneys like The International will not.

Not wanting to give up, Valve instead asked Sweden’s Minister of the Interior to “reclassify The International – Dota 2 Championships as an elite sporting event.” Which he immediately refused. They then appealed directly to the Swedish government, and were knocked back again.

So now, as July approaches, Valve has decided to all but abandon their Swedish plans and start “looking for possible alternatives elsewhere in Europe to host the event this year, in case the Swedish government is unable to accommodate The International – Dota 2 Championships as planned.”

Now, we can argue all day long whether the world in general, or Sweden in particular, is in the right place when it comes to combatting COVID-19, whether large sporting events like this should even be held, or under what circumstances they should be held. But what doesn’t seem to make sense in any capacity is to have the approval to host this agreed upon tournament live at the pleasure of a Swedish sports organization’s opinion on whether or not esports is sports-y enough to warrant the same exemptions as other large sporting events.

Two steps forward, one step back, when it comes to esports’ place in the world alongside more traditional athletic events. And with just a dash of annoying bureaucracy to boot.

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Comments on “Sweden Abruptly Decides Esports Are Not Sports When It Comes To COVID-19 Exemptions”

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Google translate strikes again

The word used in the Swedish foreign ministry regulation (idrott) means an athletic/physical sport.
E-sports do count as ?sport?, just not ?idrott?. Chess is in the same part of the Venn diagram, so no chess tournaments for Sweden, either.

This could go away with the stroke of a pen if the Swedish foreign ministry wanted to tweak one word in their rule.


Just add ?sport? to playing video games, and voil?, it must be true! I mean, it?s in the name after all.

Add ?sport? to restaurants (sport-buffet), concert halls, building-supply stores (loading boards as a sport!), and everything goes!

The bigger question is why allow exceptions for sports at all? Does the Covid jump over sporting halls like the proverbial ?blood on the doorposts? wards off the angel of death?

That One Guysays:


The physical demands are going to be vastly less but games still require high levels of skill to play competitively, from quick decision making, teamwork, good reflexes, all things that are vital components of more physical sports, so I can see why it would make sense to consider them such.

That said I very much agree with your third point, either it’s safe to congregate in large numbers in close proximity or it’s not, the fact that the congregation in question is sports related really shouldn’t matter or justify health and safety concerns brushed aside.



"Add ?sport? to restaurants (sport-buffet), concert halls, building-supply stores (loading boards as a sport!), and everything goes!"

Or, stop being an asshole and understand that games of skill can have the term "sport" applied even if you don’t have to partake in strenuous activity in order to play.

"The bigger question is why allow exceptions for sports at all?"

It’s all a question of balance. Sports are worth a lot of money, and since athletes are already subject to greater monitoring and restrictions compared to the general public, it’s easy to justify them having an exception that doesn’t apply to the public at this time.

"Does the Covid jump over sporting halls like the proverbial ?blood on the doorposts? wards off the angel of death?"

No, but people who aren’t raging morons understand things like risk, how to mitigate it, and that if you properly manage an infection it won’t spread beyond the volunteers who have been exposed. These events tend to be more of a problem when you get people who refuse to follow basic healthcare rules and spread the disease as far as possible, but that’s not happening in the context of a professional sport tournament, al least not among the players.


Re: Re:

Someone?s an asshole for not having the same opinion as you?

This would never have been an issue if playing video games was called ?e-war, e-battle, or e-games.? Adding sport to something doesn?t make it so.

I prefer that sports-bars stay open during the pandemic. It?s right there in the name!


Re: Re: Re:

"Someone?s an asshole for not having the same opinion as you?"

No, they’re being an asshole by using a reductio ad absurdum argument to attack something they disagree with.

"Adding sport to something doesn?t make it so"

Redefining sport to only include strenuously physical activity doesn’t either.

"It?s right there in the name!"

Yes, in the context that makes you an idiot for mentioning them!


Re: Physical Activity

"any particular pastime indulged in for pleasure"

According to dictionary.com sport it’s also defined as "any particular pastime indulged in for pleasure" and "to amuse oneself with some pleasant pastime or recreation.".

It’s weird how using the term as a singular rather than a plural can change the definitions, and I wonder which word is the correct one to use when referring to a singular sport.


Re: Re:

That raises the question about how "remote" things should need to be. It’s hard to play football without players coming within 2 m of each other. For video games, it’s easy. Players would need to be let into the country, but no "public gathering" would be necessary. Rent some space in an underused office park, put each player in a separate office, and stream the result. While it’ll lack the excitement of a big LANparty-style hall, we’ve gotten used to such hardships.


Re: Where's the context?

Sorry, hit enter too early; apparently you comment by hitting enter in the subject bar.

Anyway, this bit just rehashes a brief Kotaku article. I looked around and didn’t find much that elaborated it elsewhere.

And I feel there’s not enough on exactly how much public health responsibility the Ministry of Sport has, the discretion it has in its ability to exempt sports, and basically every other piece of information that could tell me whether the Ministry could declare curling or bowling or table tennis or any other indoor sport "not a sport" for purposes of the exemption due to public health reasons.

And if you want to go and grab me a link that makes that distinction, great! You’ve now done more work than Mr. Geigner, who wrote a "Schrodinger’s Swedish Law" of an article where the point is only true if we look in the box and find out that there’s no public health consideration or that it wasn’t considered here.

James Burkhardtsays:

Re: Re: Where's the context?

the "Enter" key, representing the carriage return, has not been in vogue as a form navigation tool since the GUI was introduced. By windows 95, Tab was adopted as the form navigation key of choice.

I’m unsure why you thought differently.

There is no Ministry of Sport, so I’m not clear which body your ar referring to. It appears you are confusing appeals made to the minister of the interior with the Sweedish Sports Federation a quasi public entity that fills some Sweedish government functions in relation to sports.

Not much ink has been spilled on them in English, primarily because outside the connection to international football, they aren’t a body that generally makes International news. But so far as I can determine, they hold as much authority as the state level sports commissions in the US, which could shut down sporting events pretty unilaterally for health concerns. Its a large part of why the WWE admitted the scripted nature of wrestling in the 90s, to avoid both steroid scandals and sports commissions.

Of course a quick google search could have told you that, and it really doesn’t doesn’t affect the story. But given how long you’ve been in a coma, I suppose your ignorance of google is understandable.


Re: Re: Re: Where's the context?

the "Enter" key, representing the carriage return, has not been in vogue as a form navigation tool since the GUI was introduced. By windows 95, Tab was adopted as the form navigation key of choice.

Enter’s a big key, easy to hit by accident while aiming for Shift. Who’d expect a website to accept empty comments anyway? Even in the old days, if someone designed a form such that an accidental keypress would irrevocably submit it while incomplete, we might have complained of bad design.


e-sport should not be part of the swedish sport union

As part of the Riksidrottsf?rbundet (swedish sport federation) we do not want to encourage more childrens to sit home and playing games due to many facts. Not only because it is sedentary, it is also about the social interation which you can not get by sitting ALONE in your room and using bad langauge.

I would say that gym would be a better option if you do not want to do other sports.


Re: e-sport should not be part of the swedish sport union

"it is also about the social interation which you can not get by sitting ALONE in your room and using bad langauge"

Because as we know, nobody ever swears while playing physical sports :rolls eyes:

"I would say that gym would be a better option if you do not want to do other sports."

So is hiking, but after doing that I’d prefer to play some videogames rather than watching crap on TV. Yet, if someone does that competitively and gets good enough to do it semi-professionally, you’d like to denigrate their skills because some other people choose to do it on an amateur basis rather than gawp passively at the box.

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